Delhi quadruples mask fines as virus cases soar

Updated 20 Nov 2020

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A health worker sitting on a hand cart registers people to test for Covid-19 t a market place in New Delhi on Nov 19. — AP
A health worker sitting on a hand cart registers people to test for Covid-19 t a market place in New Delhi on Nov 19. — AP

NEW DELHI: Officials in India’s capital on Thursday quadrupled the fines dished out for people not wearing face masks as coronavirus cases soar in the megacity, overwhelming hospitals and graveyards even as the government resists calls for another lockdown.

The penalty hike to 2,000 rupees ($27) announced by New Delhi’s chief minister came as India’s total coronavirus caseload neared nine million, the second-highest in the world.

“At times when words alone don’t do the trick, we have to get a bit tougher,” chief minister Arvind Kejriwal told a news conference, also tweeting that the city of 20 million was on a “war footing”.

India imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in March, but the restrictions dealt a severe blow to the economy and the government has since eased them.

Few people wear masks — particularly outside major cities — and in recent weeks shoppers have thronged markets in preparations for a series of religious festivals.

Though new cases in India have dipped to less than half in recent weeks from a peak of 100,000 infections a day in September, authorities fear a surge in coming weeks.

The western city of Ahmadabad has announced an indefinite night curfew after reporting an uptick in cases following the Diwali festival weekend. The major city in Gujarat state has recorded around 47,000 cases and close to 2,000 deaths.

In Delhi, almost 500,000 people have been fined since June for not wearing masks, 370,000 for ignoring social distancing rules and 3,500 for spitting. This week the number of cases in the metropolis passed half a million, with a record rise in daily cases and deaths.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2020