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Over 180K fined Rs9.18 crore for not wearing masks in Delhi
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At a time when experts, both in India and abroad, have stressed on strict safety norms to prevent the spread of Covid-19, Delhi Police have fined at least 188,578 people for not wearing masks in public, collecting a total of Rs 9.42 crore from people guilty of the violation since June 14, according to data accessed by HT.

Addressing a press conference on the marginal rise of Covid cases in the city, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday urged people to continue wearing masks and not mind if authorities were issuing fines because they were doing it for a greater good.

“Confidence is good but it should not lead to complacence at any cost...... In case one if fined, one must understand that it is for a greater good,” he said adding that he has directed authorities to strengthen enforcement of rules.

Also read | Covid-19: What you need to know today

The penalty for not wearing a mask is a Rs 500 on-the-spot fine under a rule passed by the Delhi government under the Delhi Epidemic Diseases, (Management of Covid-19) Regulations, 2020, approved by the Delhi L-G in June. The drive to penalise those moving about in public spaces without a mask was launched on June 14.

A senior Delhi police officer, who did not wish to be named, said that a majority of people fined were those who could afford a mask but still stepped out in public without one.

“Most of these people have no reason whatsoever not to wear masks. Issuing fines is not the solution but it serves as a deterrent. We do not fine the underprivileged persons. Instead of issuing fines, we distribute masks among them. Till Tuesday, we have distributed 221,735 masks. Our teams are visiting areas in the Capital where underprivileged citizens live,” the officer said.

Dr VK Paul, member(health) at Niti Aayog, had on Sunday said that while Delhi has done well in terms of testing, surveillance, containment measures, contact tracing, and scaling up health infrastructure, leading to a drop in overall cases, the lack of caution among residents has emerged as impediment in preventing a further reduction in number of cases. “There’s laxity in people’s behaviour as far as adopting preventive measures is concerned, which is extremely important along with surveillance and other epidemiological measures, to bring down the rate of infection,” Paul told HT.

Also read| Delhi at an inflection point in Covid battle

According to the police data, least number of fines were imposed in the New Delhi district, which includes the Lutyens’ zone. Till 23 August, 6,482 people were found without mask in New Delhi.

The maximum number of violations, 22,136, were reported from Outer Delhi district -- which includes places like Mangolpuri, Aman Vihar, Sultanpuri and Kanjhawala, followed by West Delhi where 16,772 people without mask were fined.

Data suggests that more people in South Delhi are complying with the mask rule now since on July 20, the district which has areas such as Defence Colony, Hauz Khas, Lodhi Colony and Mehrauli, had the maximum violations at 5,539. The district has reported total 15,331 violations till August 23.Second maximum violations had been reported from Southwest district at 4,564. This includes RK Puram,Vasant Vihar, Delhi Cantonment and Vasant Kunj.

Police officers in outer district said while many people have gamchhas (a cotton cloth), they do not cover their faces. They said a lot of people are not aware that not wearing a mask can attract a penalty. “In many cases, when we ask people that they could be fined for not wearing a mask or covering their faces properly, people don’t believe us. Some even smile and apologise. If the violator is a factory worker or labourer, we usually counsel them, make them cover their face and let them go with a warning,” a patrolling officer, who has been involved in the drive, said requesting anonymity.

Other officers said fines are proving a deterrence. “In places such as south Delhi or New Delhi, we could see a change within days of people learning that police had started issuing fines. The word spread quickly so those districts managed to reduce the number. It will take time, but violations will decrease in other districts too,” a senior police officer, who did not wish to be named, said.

HT reached out to at least three people who were fined for not wearing a mask but all of them refused to speak to the media.

The police clarified on Tuesday through their Twitter account that wearing a face mask is mandatory even for those who are driving alone in their car. Police officials pointed out instances in which people driving cars argued with them that they couldn’t be penalised since they were alone in the vehicle.

Experts stressed that wearing masks and hand hygiene were essential to contain the spread of the disease.

“I strongly advise citizens to wear masks and wash hands.This is basic and the first level of protection, which should not be ignored. There are many reasons why people are now moving around without a mask. Maybe they think there is no risk. Many perceive that the threat from the virus is to others and not to them. Some may also be fed up of the virus. A minor reason could also be fake news from irresponsible social media companies, which say that wearing masks is harmful. Until the day, we find a cure, or the virus mutates to a weaker strain or we develop herd immunity, it is important to wear masks, wash hands frequently and maintain social distancing,” said Dr Puneet Mishra, professor of community medicine, AIIMS.

Delhi added 1,693 fresh Covid-19 cases and 17 fatalities on Wednesday, according to the Delhi government’s daily health bulletin. The total number of infections in the capital now stands at 165,764 and the toll at 4,347.

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