India World

Covid-19 India: 20 million Delhi residents put under lockdown; vaccine opens for all adults from May 1

India’s capital, Delhi, has announced a week-long lockdown after a record spike in cases overwhelmed the city’s healthcare system.

Government offices and essential services, such as hospitals, pharmacies and grocers, will be open during the lockdown, which starts on Monday night.

The city had imposed a weekend curfew, but reported its highest single-day spike so far on Sunday – 24,462 cases.

India has been reeling from a deadly second wave since the start of April.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the city had almost run out of beds at hospital intensive care units (ICUs) and that oxygen was in short supply.

“I have always been against lockdowns, but this one will help us amplify the number of hospital beds in Delhi,” he told a virtual press conference on Monday.

“This was a difficult decision to take but we had no other option left,” Mr Kejriwal said. “I know when lockdowns are announced, daily-wage workers suffer and lose their jobs. But I appeal to them to not leave Delhi. It’s a short lockdown and we will take care of you.”

Last year’s national lockdown saw millions of them heading back to their villages after they found themselves unemployed and running out of money.

Meanwhile, India’s health ministry has announced it will open its Covid-19 vaccination drive to all adults from 1 May.

More than 273,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported across India – with more than 1,600 deaths – in the last 24 hours.

India has been reporting more than 200,000 cases daily since 15 April – well past its peak last year, when it was averaging around 93,000 cases a day.

On Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled a planned trip to India in view of the situation. Mr Johnson and Mr Modi will speak later this month to “launch ambitious plans for the future partnership”, a statement said.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock also announced on Monday afternoon that India had been placed on the country’s travel red list, which means people who have been in India in the last 10 days cannot enter the UK.

Former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been admitted to hospital after testing positive for the virus.

Maharashtra, which has India’s financial hub Mumbai as its capital, remains the worst-hit state, accounting for nearly a third of India’s more than 1.9 million active cases.

But Delhi is the worst-hit city, confirming more cases daily than Mumbai in recent days.

Hospitals are struggling to accommodate Covid-positive patients in Delhi and other badly hit cities such as Mumbai, Lucknow and Ahmedabad. Several states have been reporting an acute shortage of beds in Covid wards and ICUs.

Even test results are being delayed because of overwhelming demand, which, doctors say, is leading to people not getting diagnosed and treated in time.

Events where unmasked crowds attend election rallies, millions congregating on the banks of the Ganges river for a Hindu festival are being criticised amid surging infections.