NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian federal authorities on Monday struck down an order by the Delhi city government to reserve hospital beds for residents as the country reported a record number of coronavirus infections in a single day.
The chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, had said the city would soon run out of beds if COVID-19 patients kept coming from across India to its hospitals, drawing criticism that he was being unethical.
Delhi and Mumbai are hotspots for coronavirus infections in India, which reached 256,611 nationwide on Monday, the health ministry said. Deaths from COVID-19 stood at 7,135.
Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal, who represents the federal government, said denying treatment simply because someone was not a resident of the capital would be legally impermissible.
“All government and private hospitals and nursing homes have to extend all COVID-19 treatment facilities without any discrimination against residents or non-residents,” he said in an order.
Delhi has also stopped hotels from reopening as it might want to convert them into temporary hospitals if there is a big jump in cases. Health experts say India’s peak could still be weeks away, if not months.
The row came as the government threw open shopping malls and restaurants in a bid to get the economy back up after a lockdown imposed in March that left millions without work.
Worshippers wore masks, stood 6 feet (2 metres) part and went through thermal scanners at Hindu temples in the capital city and elsewhere in the country as they re-opened.
Access was strictly controlled.
“We are allowing only a small number of devotees inside the temple at one time. We have drawn circles where they need to stand to ensure proper distancing of at least 6 feet,” said Harsh Vyas of an ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temple in the western city of Ahmedabad.
Chief minister Kejriwal went into self-isolation at home after a bout of fever and throat pain, his party said. A coronavirus test is scheduled for Tuesday.
“He has been a corona warrior, he has been at the frontline of this fight, we hope he recovers soon,” said Raghav Chadha, a party legislator.
(Additional reporting by Manoj Kumar and Neha Arora in New Delhi, Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai Sumit Khanna in Ahmedabad, Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow; Editing by)