By LE Desk

New Delhi, June 18, 2021: The Delhi High Court today took note of crowding and violations in Covid-19 protocols in markets and public spaces across the national capital, and sounded a dire warning — the city will be in “great trouble” in the wake of an anticipated third wave of the pandemic.

A bench of justices Navin Chawla and Asha Menon said that if the flouting of the norms continued, the expected third wave may “hasten” its pace and “God help us if all that happens!”, the Hindustan Times reported.

The court, while taking note of the photographs sent to one of the high court judges on WhatsApp by an AIIMS doctor showing complete disregard of the Covid-19 protocols by street vendors in markets, initiated a suo moto Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and sought to know the stand of the authorities, HT said.

The judges referred to a devastating second wave in which daily infections peaked at 28,395 on April 20, and 448 deaths were recorded on May 3. 

“We have paid a huge price in the second wave. We don’t know if there is any household which has not suffered in the second wave, closely or remotely,” the bench said. “We as a citizen of this city are worried when we see these images… Such breach will only hasten the third wave, which is likely to come and this cannot be permitted.”

The runaway outbreak in April — the worst the city has seen in over a year of the pandemic — forced people to scramble from hospital to hospital for beds, essentials and life-saving drugs, while bodies piled up in crematoriums that were running out of space. The situation eased in early May as the Delhi government imposed a lockdown from April 19, and the state and central governments scaled up health facilities.

It told the Centre and the Delhi government to take strict measures, sensitise shopkeepers, and hold meetings with markets and vendors associations. It asked the Delhi government and Delhi police to file status reports by July 9 in this regard.

Markets and shops have been allowed to open for two weeks now, at first only in a 50% arrangement before the restrictions were eased further on June 14. Since then, photographs from several typically popular markets have shown increasing amount of footfall.

Appearing for the Centre, standing counsel Anil Soni and Delhi government’s additional standing counsel Gautam Narayan told the court that all efforts will be made to rectify the situation. The high court said government officials and bureaucrats must apply their minds to normalise the lives of Delhi residents with compliance to all the protocols as “we cannot have a lockdown always”.

The heat wave and wearing a mask is not an extraordinary discomfort,” it added.

The bench also said that photographs received from an AIIMS doctor (they did not name him) were mainly of the street vendors, and so the market associations should ensure those standing in the vicinity wear masks.

“It can be in the form of more interactions with market and vendors associations and more civil defence and police personnel being deployed at markets and hawking places,” the court said, reported the Hindustan Times.

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