The Indian capital, which just weeks ago suffered the devastating force of the coronavirus, with tens of thousands of new infections daily and funeral pyres that burned day and night, is taking its first steps back toward normalcy. Officials on Monday reopened manufacturing and construction activity, allowing workers in those industries to return to their jobs after six weeks of staying at home to avoid infection. The move came after a sharp drop in new infections, at least by the official numbers, and as hospital wards emptied and the strain on medicine and supplies has eased.
Life on the streets of Delhi is not expected to return to normal immediately. Schools and most businesses are still closed. The Delhi Metro system, which reopened after last year’s nationwide lockdown, has suspended service again.
But the city government’s easing of restrictions will allow people like Ram Niwas Gupta and his employees to begin returning to work — and, more broadly, to start to repair India’s ailing, pandemic-struck economy. Mr. Gupta, a construction company owner, must replace the migrant workers who fled Delhi when a second wave of the coronavirus struck in April, but he was confident that business would return to normal soon.
At least one million people in Delhi’s construction sector will be able to return to job sites.
Even a small opening represents a gamble by city officials. Just 3 percent of India’s 1.4 billion people are fully vaccinated. Because of limited health infrastructure and public reporting, the state of the pandemic in rural areas — including some just outside Delhi — is largely unknown. Experts are already predicting a third wave while cautioning that the lull in Delhi may be just a respite, and not the end of the second wave.