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Delhi Govt Revises Coronavirus Death Toll to 106 After Controversy; Cases Near 8,000

People being screened in New Delhi. (Reuters)

People being screened in New Delhi. (Reuters)

Notwithstanding the constant surge in cases, a large number of people, who responded to a call by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to give their suggestions on the situation post-May 17.

The coronavirus cases neared the 8,000 mark in Delhi on Wednesday, while the city government revised the death toll to 106, following an audit prompted by a controversy over mismatch of figures given by it and hospitals.

The 20 deaths which have been added took place in April and May, the authorities said, days after the Delhi government was accused of under-reporting the fatalities but it had sought to blame the hospitals claiming they were not providing the death reports in a timely manner.

Notwithstanding the constant surge in cases, a large number of people, who responded to a call by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to give their suggestions on the situation post-May 17 when the third phase of the lockdown will end, favoured allowing more economic activities in Delhi, sources said.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Delhi climbed to 7,998 after 359 fresh cases were reported, a bulletin by the Health Department said.

It said the 20 deaths reported took place in April and May as per case sheets received from hospitals and audited by the COVID-19 death committee.

After the controversy, the Delhi government had issued standard operating procedure (SOP) for hospitals and other health facilities in the city on reporting fatalities due to coronavirus. Of the deceased patients, 58 were aged 60 and above, accounting for over 54 per cent of the fatalities here. Twenty-eight of them were aged between 50-59 years and 20 were less than 50 years, the bulletin said.

Kejriwal had on Tuesday sought views from Delhiites on how to ease curbs after May 17, but said the lockdown cannot be completely lifted in view of the rising number of cases.

In response, more than 4.76 lakh WhatsApp messages, 39,000 calls and 10,700 emails were received till 5 Pm Wednesday, the Chief Minister's Office said.

A team has been formed to analyse these messages, sources said. They added that most people favoured allowing more economic activities in the national capital post May 17. However, the decision will be in accordance with the Centre's guidelines, the sources noted.

The responses have been received under various categories such as industrial and MSME operations, transportation, education, and day-to-day activities of the people such as commercial and non-commercial activities, a statement said.

Delhi has been under the lockdown since March 23. The transport department is also holding discussions to develop a protocol for safe public transport amid COVID-19 pandemic. A decision on resumption of full-fledged services will depend on Centre's guidelines, said a senior government functionary.

Meanwhile, three special Shramik trains carrying migrant workers left the national capital for Bhagalpur, Barauni and Darbhanga in Bihar.

Delhi's Labour Minister Gopal Rai said the AAP government will pay fares for all migrant workers. Separately, four trains from Mumbai, Ahemdabad, Patna and Howrah brought people stranded in different parts of the country to the national capital.

But many passengers carrying heavy luggage stood clueless outside the railway station for hours as there was no bus, cab or any other transport option available for onward journeys. "We can give you Rs 6,000 maximum if you take us to Roorkee (in Uttarakhand, a distance of about 200 km)," a man said to a driver who reached the station to pick up a family which had already booked his taxi.

Another man was seen asking a rickshaw-puller to take him to Anand Vihar. Ratnakar, a resident of Uttam Nagar, who had gone to his village in Bihar's Begusarai district, said he had no idea about suspension of public transport in Delhi.

His father, who is in his 60s, said if they start walking, they would reach home by evening. Why have they started running trains when there is no bus or metro available? We had no clue that there will be no public transport whatsoever in Delhi, he said.

In the evening, the Delhi Police said the stranded passengers can now avail DTC buses for their onward journey from the station.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Railways) Harendra K Singh said they made elaborate arrangements in close coordination with railway authorities to ensure passengers experience no inconvenience while travelling, but at the same time follow the guidelines issued to contain the spread of coronavirus.

"For the passengers boarding trains, a dedicated corridor was made on the Paharganj side where people queued up, all wearing masks and maintaining social distance. After thermal scanning, they boarded the trains. Sanitiser dispensers were placed at prominent places for the passengers," Singh said.

After eight persons working in the New Delhi district magistrate's office were found coronavirus positive, the premises were sealed, officials said. Hardly five kilometres away, Rail Bhavan, the headquarters of the Indian Railways, was also shut after an RPF staffer tested positive.

With more than 100 of its personnel testing positive for COVID-19 so far, the Delhi Police said some hospitals have reserved beds for it for any emergency admissions as many in the force are deployed at "sensitive" locations like containment zones and quarantine centres.

Among those infected, 35 police personnel have recovered from the infection and resumed their duties, officials said.

first published:May 13, 2020, 22:41 IST