Key Indian cities opened for work Monday, with long queues for buses in Mumbai’s financial center as traffic returned to the roads of New Delhi after a devastating second wave of coronavirus that killed hundreds of thousands.
“We need to save ourselves from infection, but also get the economy back on track,” Delhi Prime Minister Arvind Keirival said on Twitter.
He ordered the opening of half of the shops in the capital on odd and even days of the month, in an attempt to limit crowds, but allowed offices and the Delhi underground network to operate at 50% capacity.
But some curbs have been retained, such as a ban on eating in restaurants and the use of theaters and gyms in a city that is still slowly recovering from the April and May waves that flooded hospitals.
They lacked beds and medical oxygen, and people died in hospital parking lots and homes as crematoria and morgues struggled to cope with the constant flow of corpses.
India has added 2,427 overnight deaths to 349,186, the health ministry said, compared to more than 4,000 every day in the midst of the crisis, while the number of infections now stands at 28.9 million.
But experts believe that both figures are greatly underestimated and may be several times higher than the official number.
Authorities in the western state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, have allowed businesses to operate until late in the afternoon, working with half of their employees, and have opened gyms, salons and spas, although cinemas and malls should remain closed.
Reopening efforts come as authorities struggle to vaccinate a population of nearly 1.4 billion in a strategy that says employees are the only way to curb any third wave of infections.
But the tight supply means that less than 5% of the 950 million Native Americans have received the mandatory two doses of vaccine.
Pressure to resume economic activity has increased as millions depend on daily wages to pay for food and rent.
“I opened my store after 40 days,” tea seller Monu Yadav told Reuters partner ANI in the northern city of Varanasi, adding that only some of his customers had returned.
Last week, the central bank cut its forecast for economic growth to 9.5% from 10.5% for fiscal 2021/22.
The second wave “disrupted the nascent recovery that is underway, but” did not silence it, “said Shaktikanta Das, governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
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