Delhi lifts weekend curfew, reopens restaurants as India COVID cases drop

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A healthcare worker collects a test swab sample from a woman amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a testing centre inside a hospital in New Delhi, India, January 14, 2022. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

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NEW DELHI, Jan 28 (Reuters) - India's capital Delhi lifted a weekend curfew and allowed restaurants and marketplaces to reopen on Friday, following a sharp drop in new infections of COVID-19.

Under new orders, however, the city will remain under night time curfew, and schools will be closed, Delhi's lieutenant governor said. Restaurants, bars and cinemas will be allowed to operate with up to 50% capacity and the number of people at weddings will be restricted to 200.

"In view of the decline in positive cases, it was decided to gradually ease restrictions while ensuring adherence to COVID Appropriate Behaviour," Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal, who represents the federal government, said.

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The number of new cases in Delhi fell to 4,291 on Jan. 27 from a peak of 28,867 on Jan. 13. More than 85% of COVID beds across the city's hospitals were unoccupied, government data showed.

"The hospitalisation is far, far lower compared to what we saw in the previous wave," said Dr. Desh Deepak, a senior physician with state-run Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Delhi.

"Most patients who have died had underlying conditions such as cancer or kidney disease and most were not fully vaccinated."

Last week, authorities eased some curbs, allowing private offices to be partially staffed but advised people to work from home as much as possible. read more

The capital has been one of the worst hit in the ongoing third wave led by the highly infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus and the city government had imposed the curfew on Jan. 4 and ordered schools and restaurants to close.

Late on Thursday, the federal home ministry urged states to remain vigilant and said it was a concern that 407 districts across 34 states and Union Territories were reporting an infective rate of more than 10%, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla told them in a letter.

India reported 251,209 new COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours, taking the overall tally to 40.62 million, the health ministry said. Deaths increased by 627 and total fatalities were 492,327.

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Reporting by Neha Arora; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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