Several Indian states end Covid pandemic norms

Infections have dropped to record low levels this week

School pupils queue for the Corbevax vaccine in Bangalore. AFP

Authorities across several Indian states have ended coronavirus pandemic regulations, including the wearing of face masks, two years after the government launched drastic measures to control the spread of Covid-19.

Infection cases have dropped to record low levels this week in the second most populous nation that remains the third worst-hit country in the world, with 43 million cases and around 522,000 deaths.

India’s Health Ministry on Friday said 1,335 cases of infection and 52 deaths were reported in the country in the past 24 hours, down from nearly 300,000 cases a day in January when the third Omicron driven wave hit the country.

This week the country recorded the lowest infections in 23 months at around 1,200.

Total active cases in the country have fallen to below 15,000, the ministry said. This has prompted authorities in several states to revise the pandemic curbs.

In western Maharashtra, all pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted, including the mandate of double vaccination for using public places like cinemas and trains.

The state is one of the worst-affected by the pandemic, with 7.8 million cases.

Teenagers register for a dose of the Corbevax vaccine during a vaccination drive for people in the 12-14 age group at a centre in Allahabad. AFP

“All Covid restrictions in Maharashtra will be lifted,” Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray tweeted.

Authorities in Delhi will no longer impose fines for refusal to wear a face mask, although they encouraged people to continue wearing them in crowded places.

In February, a penalty of 500 rupees ($6) was imposed for not wearing a mask. It had previously been as high as $26.

Last year the city was gripped by the Delta-variant driven second wave that left tens of thousands scrambling for hospital beds, oxygen and medicines.

Eastern West Bengal and southern Telangana also lifted all pandemic curbs as cases hit a low.

A months-long lockdown was imposed across India in March 2020 to contain the spread of the virus.

Governments under the federal and state disaster management laws imposed pandemic lockdowns, created localised containment zones, mandatory quarantines and caps on all gatherings.

But the restrictions have been gradually abandoned amid a steady decline in cases and universal vaccination of the population.

Last week the federal government decided not to extend nationwide pandemic norms, while allowing the resumption of regular international flights.

It argued that the country had provided sufficient vaccine coverage to its population since it launched the world’s biggest vaccination campaign last January.

About 98 per cent of India’s 944 million adult population is vaccinated with at least a single dose and 83 per cent have received two doses.

It has since included children above the age of 12 in the campaign that is offering booster shots for the elderly and vulnerable.

Updated: April 02, 2022, 5:01 AM