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The Delhi government on Thursday decided to impose a fine of 2,000 for not wearing masks, up from the current penalty of 500, as a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic rages across the national capital.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led government also directed private hospitals to reserve 80% ICU beds for covid patients and advised them to postpone all non-critical planned surgeries for the next few days.

Earlier in the day, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal chaired an all-party meeting to discuss ways to contain the pandemic.

Festive gatherings, falling temperature and high air pollution levels have made the national capital a breeding ground for the virus. As on Thursday, Delhi’s total covid count breached the 500,000 mark, of which 42,457 cases are active. It has also registered 7,943 deaths so far, while 453,000 people have recovered from covid-19.

“This is not the time to do politics. This is a very tough time. This is the time to work for the people, this is what people will remember. We should push aside politics during this time. Over the past few days, there have been politics over the celebration of chhath puja. We all want to celebrate chhath puja but experts have warned that water increases the spread of the infection. There is a pandemic and we should celebrate in our own homes. Other states have also taken similar decisions for the festival," Kejriwal said at a press conference.

“There are approximately 7,500 beds available in Delhi hospitals and 450 ICU beds. The government has taken key decisions to increase beds in hospitals and ICU beds. An order will be applicable from today on private hospitals that 80% beds in ICUs will be reserved for covid-19 patients. 60% non-ICU beds will also be reserved for covid-19 patients. We have also decided to postpone non-critical planned surgeries." Kejriwal said doctors and the medical fraternity have managed the covid-19 situation very well.

“We need to take more strict action when rules are not being followed. I met the lieutenant governor and we have decided to increase the fine from 500 to 2,000 for not wearing masks. I appeal to political parties and religious institutions to distribute masks. Wearing a mask reduces the risk of the virus spreading," he added.

In the last week, the Delhi government has reduced the number of people allowed at weddings and other gatherings from 200 to 50.

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