NEW DELHI: People in Delhi wondered whether the move to impose night curfew would be effective in checking the spread of the coronavirus cases, which are shooting up over the past few days.
They argued that there was a need for better implementation of guidelines and heftier fine against violators during the day instead of imposing a night curfew when "most of the population is already indoors".
Some also supported the decision, saying people were likely to step out in the night with increasing temperatures.
The Kejriwal government on Tuesday imposed night curfew from 10 pm to 5 am with immediate effect till April 30 as the coronavirus cases continue to soar in Delhi, which recorded 5,100 new cases, the highest since November 27.
"For common people, there is no point of going out after 10. It was only certain people who were out partying," Dhriti Singh, a private firm employee.
"There are no markets after 10 and fewer places to visit. This move won't help much."
Singh suggested that imposing a heftier fine on those not following coronavirus guidelines might do the trick.
Another local, Adnan Saifi, said it was in the day when people usually meet each other and the focus should be on the "best practices" like social distancing, sanitisation and wearing mask.
"Night curfew won't make much of the impact as it is the day time when there is a gathering," Saifi said.
Social media users also voiced their opinions, mostly against the decision, some mocking and some questioning the motive.
"Night curfew is to corona virus, what green tea is to weight loss," wrote one Twitter user.
Another Twitter user, Vidhi Arora, said people should be asked to strictly work from home and public transport should be stopped as less people would go out then.
Software engineer Madhvi Sehra Pathak shared her concern about how people would be able to take late-night flights during the curfew.
"Instead of applying night curfew make people understand that corona is still there and they need to be cautious," Pathak wrote in response to a tweet by the ruling Aam Aadmi Party.
The Delhi government has announced exemptions for various categories of people, including include those travelling to and from airports, railway stations and bus terminuses.
Questioning the efficacy of the night curfew, Sarthak Gulati suggested that closing shops earlier might help reduce crowds.
"First, the efficacy of night curfew in itself is questionable. Fine, early closing of shops, malls, restaurants at say 8 pm might reduce crowding, agreed. But what is this 10 pm-5 am night curfew. Next, states will say curfew from midnight - 2 am will stop increasing cases," Gulati tweeted.
While supporting the decision, Delhi-based homemaker Neha Awasthi argued that the night curfew would restrict those who like to go for dinner or drives.
"It is good because people were more likely to step out late as the temperature is high during the day. There was a possibility that people would step out in groups for walk and maybe for late night drives and dinner, at least with this they will be forced to reach home by 10 pm," Awasthi said.
the re-imposition of night curfew in the capital, they found themselves discussing arrangements from scratch yet again -- wedding date, venue and the most important, 'timing'.
The Delhi government's decision on Tuesday to impose a night curfew from 10 pm to 5 am till April 30 to stem the spread of the virus has thrown the couples and the already bleeding wedding industry into a tizzy.
So now couples are mulling a "day marriage", wedding planners are making a beeline for venues in the neighbouring Noida and Gurgaon, and many hotels-banquets, reading the fine print of the order, are busy answering queries from frantic customers.
Paras Chugh and Abhishek, who were set to tie the knot on April 28, are now contemplating a "day wedding" instead of a night gala.
"It is a total mess. There is a new restriction every week. We are discussing with our wedding planner what to do next. We are contemplating having a day wedding now," said Chugh, clearly not happy with the new restrictions throwing a spanner in the works of his dream wedding.
The night curfew was imposed after the national capital witnessed a spike in the COVID-19 cases.
Delhi on Monday recorded 3,548 cases, pushing its caseload to 6,79,962.
On Sunday, the city reported 4,033 coronavirus cases, the highest daily count this year.
The decision comes as another blow for the wedding season which has already a cap of 100 and 200 people for any close and open space events respectively in the capital, as per the order issued by the administration in the last week of March.
While the "bride, groom, and close family members" are exempted from the night curfew restrictions, no such provisions are available for guests attending the wedding.
"The bride, groom and their close family members will require e-passes that will be issued by the district magistrates concerned. But, no guests will be allowed during stipulated curfew hours from 10 pm to 5 am," a senior Delhi government officer told PTI.
Couples are worried that the condition of getting e-passes for attending weddings will prove to be a deterrent for wedding guests.
"I understand the cap on the number of people attending the wedding, but getting an e-pass due to the night curfew has raised concerns. Apparently those attending weddings have to get an e-pass. A lot of people who were planning to attend the wedding will back out to avoid this hassle. This also adds to our monetary loss."
"And this news comes so close to the wedding date that making changes to the arrangements is not possible. All payments have been made in advance," said Bhavna Kaul, who is set to get married on April 25.
Worried wedding planners have wasted no time in figuring out plan B for their clients like booking venues in Haryana's Gurgaon and Uttar Pradesh's Noida cities.
"We have spent the whole day calling different venues in Gurgaon and Noida to see their availability. However, the clients are worried that these two regions may also impose restrictions soon, because of the exponential rise (in COVID cases)," said Shakti Singh, head (weddings), Madam Planners.
"A plan of having a day wedding is being explored now depending upon availability of trustworthy venues compliant with safety measures and hygiene. It is also financially bad for clients as despite less people attending the wedding the venue managers still charge as per the number of guests quoted initially," she added.
For those in the business of luxury wedding venues, like Hilton Garden Inn, and Amaara Farms, while it is too early to gauge the impact of the curfew on business, maintaining the highest standards of hygiene remains the top priority.
"We are elated to see the prompt measures taken by the government, however, it's too early to comment on the impact right now. We are following all safety norms set by the government and as part of the Hilton Cleanstay program, we are taking utmost precautions and cleanliness measures to ensure guest safety and enhanced wedding experience," said Abhinav Mehra, assistant director of sales at Hilton Garden Inn, Saket.
Shivan Gupta of the Amaara Farms said that the establishment started receiving queries for brunch or day weddings after the announcement of the curfew.
"The year 2020 marked a series of significant changes for the Indian wedding industry. In light of the severe spike in COVID-19 cases in Delhi recently, the government has imposed night curfew which will yet again impact weddings.
"We have been receiving queries from couples for a brunch or day wedding, which can be a truly memorable, regal and extraordinary affair. Guests will be treated to a whole day of personalised, curated and bespoke events with intimate weddings by Amaara. Our shimmering glass house is just as special for a wedding at high noon as in the reflection of the moonlit sky," said Gupta, the creative director at Amaara Farms.
The curfew, which will be in force from 10 pm to 5 am, will not only curtail dine-in hours but will also affect home delivery operations, which form a considerable chunk of restaurants' revenue, said Kabir Suri, vice-president of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), on Tuesday.
It is going to be a very difficult time for the sector, he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Delhi government announced the night curfew, effective immediately, until April 30 in view of the rising COVID-19 cases in the city.
Only essential services and emergency services are exempted from the curfew.
Delhi recorded 5,100 fresh COVID-19 cases, the highest daily spike so far this year, on Tuesday.
"We somehow survived so far, but with the new guidelines, it seems highly unlikely that we can sustain any longer," Suri said, even as he assured the government of full support from the restaurant industry.
He said restaurants had just started seeing some "respectable surge in consumption" which prompted many establishments to rehire staff.
"Now we are left in a lurch," he lamented.
"Curfew at 10 pm means that we will have to shut our restaurants at 9 pm for people to reach their homes in time. It prohibits dining post 9 pm, and also affects the delivery business that contributes a major chunk of revenue in our business," Suri explained.
Last year, restaurants in Delhi were shuttered from March to June due to the lockdown, and even when they did open up, they had to operate at 50 per cent capacity as per government guidelines.
While most restaurateurs said they understand the reasoning behind the government decision, they fear it will make survival difficult for many businesses.
Zorawar Kalra, founder of Massive Restaurants Pvt Ltd, said the past year had been very difficult for the "already beleaguered" food and beverage industry.
"The new measures put in place are understandably the need of the hour but will have a huge impact on sales and on the survivability of the industry as a whole."
"Takeout and delivery alone cannot sustain a restaurant enterprise. Already the restaurants were operating at 50 per cent capacity and now with these measures in place, it is definitely going to affect business in a huge way," Kalra said.
According to Rohit Aggarwal, director of Lite Bite Foods, restaurants are looking at their business on an everyday basis as it is ideal to keep the operational cost in control.
"All the players are trying their best to break even by adopting various strategies, be it rent on revenue share model or pushing deliveries via special menus or operating through a cloud kitchen," he said.
The hospitality industry had just started to make some progress but the night curfew will definitely halt it, he said.
Food festival curator Maneesh Srivastava, who had to postpone his four-day food pop-up scheduled to begin later this week due to the night curfew, agreed.
"The F&B industry had started picking up its reigns. The imposition of night curfew is going to be a big blow," he said.
"After slogging whole day, people prefer to meet family and friends or have informal meetings for dinner. Also, customers prefer dinner and alcohol, which play a major role in deciding where to dine. The curfew also creates more fear and people avoid eating out," he added.
Popular fast-food chain McDonalds said it would continue to comply with all local and state-level restrictions.
"At McDonald's, we continue to follow the government's directives including compliance with all local and state-level restrictions, wherever applicable.
"The safety and wellness of customers and employees remain the topmost priority for us and we will adhere to the government's guidelines to ensure that," said North and East spokesperson of McDonald's India.
NRAI's Suri said the association is in constant talks with the Delhi government to seek relief for the restaurant industry.
"We hope they will provide us some immediate relief to survive this second surge of COVID-19 which is worse than the first one," he said.