New Delhi, Mar 26, 2020: Grocery stores in Delhi will be allowed to operate 24x7 during the 21-day nationwide lockdown to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said today after a second meeting in as many days with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and senior government officials, NDTV.
News about round-the-clock availability of essential goods - such as milk, bread, fruits and vegetables - comes amid widespread confusion and panic over availability of food during the lockdown.
Under the terms of the "total lockdown" ordered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, shops selling groceries, vegetables and medicines had been allowed to stay open, but confusion over these details led to a number of such shops closing over fear of police action and people rushing to stock up.
Confusion over e-commerce firms being allowed to deliver led to huge amounts of fresh produce - 15,000 litres of milk and 10,000 kilograms of vegetables - being dumped, some firms alleged.
"We have decided to allow all establishments that supply essential items or are part of the supply chain for such items to function 24x7 to prevent overcrowding during the day. This will require no additional permits and licenses," Mr Kejriwal said today.
E-commerce retailers and operators who will be allowed to function during the lockdown include app-based food delivery services Zomato, Swiggy, FoodPanda, Pizza Hut and Domino’s, as well as e-commerce firms like Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal and household management service UrbanClap.
Online groceries delivery firms like Big Basket, Grofers, MilkBasket, Big Bazaar, Reliance Fresh, Spencer’s, More Retail Ltd and EasyDay will also be allowed to operate, the Chief Minister said.
Door delivery of medicines and medical services will also be allowed, with firms like Dr Lal Pathlabs, MedLife and PharmEasy also on the list.
In his briefing the Chief Minister said firms and local grocery stores would need to call 1031 to register themselves for door delivery and be given an e-pass they can show police on demand.
Delhi Police have been instructed to allow delivery agents with passes to proceed, he added.
On Wednesday Mr Kejriwal said his government was prepared to ensure supply of essential goods.
"During this 21-day lockdown, we will do our best to make sure nobody goes hungry. This is a difficult time. We are not saying there will not be problems, but we will do our best to make sure everyone is looked after," he said, stressing, "There will be no shortage of essential goods".
He also said people providing essential services - such as health care and journalism - would not be stopped from carrying out their duties so long as they carried identity cards with them.
Last week Mr Kejriwal also announced free rations to 72 lakh people whose jobs and livelihoods may have been affected by the lockdown.
India went under a 21-day "total lockdown", starting Tuesday midnight, to stop the spread of the contagious COVID-19 virus, which has infected over 600 people and killed at least 13 others. Thousands across the country have been quarantined or told to go into self-isolation.
In Delhi close to 900 people have been quarantined after coming in contact with the doctor of a community clinic who has tested positive. They have been isolated for 14 days, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain told NDTV.
Arvind Kejriwal has said that all community clinics will remain open despite this development.
Worldwide the virus, which originated in China’s Wuhan district in December last year, has killed more than 18,000 people and infected over 4.1 lakh others.