As the DDMA on Thursday decided to do away with fines for not wearing face masks at public places in view of dip in coronavirus cases in the city, many doctors said the "move was not wise" and should have been done in a "phased manner".
They also cautioned that vulnerable people should continue to follow all Covid-appropriate behaviours.
Doctors at leading hospitals in Delhi concurred that while the number of cases has significantly declined, "Covid is not out of the world yet".
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) decided that there will be no fine now for not wearing face masks at public places in view of a significant decline in the number of fresh COVID-19 cases in the national capital, official sources said.
They said at a meeting chaired by Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Anil Baijal that there was consensus among all the participants about the lifting of all Covid-related restrictions, even though the DDMA is yet to issue an order in this regard.
However, most of the Covid-related restrictions have already been lifted by the authorities.
Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, a senior consultant at Apollo hospital here said, "While it has been observed that many people have already stopped wearing masks, amid a fall in Covid cases, I would say it should have been done in a gradual manner."
"Mask mandates should have remained in crowded public places like malls, markets, theatres etc. People are already fatigued, and not having a fine for not wearing a mask would mean many will not wear it, which is not a good thing as Covid is still not out of this world," he said.
The senior doctor, who has been on Covid duty since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020 and a Covid survivor himself, sounded a note of caution for the vulnerable sections and the elderly, saying, "These people at least must continue to wear masks and adhere to all Covid safety norms."
Dr Richa Sareen, consultant of pulmonology at Fortis hospital here, echoed Chatterjee's views, saying the vulnerable sections like those having co-morbidities or other ailments that might affect the lungs etc, and those who have been infected in the past and survived with difficulty must continue to wear masks and follow all Covid-appropriate behaviours.
"Yes, it's been two years since the pandemic broke out, and people are tired and fatigued of wearing masks and other things that Covid has brought in, but the move by the government to do away with fine for not wearing face masks at public places was not a wise one as there is a threat of a fourth wave, I would say. People should take it with a pinch of salt," she added.
Doctors said the government's decision must have been taken in consultation with experts, but "there is a potential risk, as it's not over".
Sareen also said that many people have already stopped wearing masks, and penalisation often doesn't work, "so people would have to behave wisely for their own safety, and one can't allow complacency to creep in".
"The government is not saying don't wear mask, but with no fine imposed, the message that might go across us is that everything is fine and Covid is over," she cautioned, adding that the mask mandate could always be brought back if the situation demands.
However, earlier in the day, the sources said the DDMA is likely to issue an advisory for people, asking them to wear masks at crowded places.
Currently, there is a fine of Rs 500 for not wearing masks at public places in Delhi.
The Centre had earlier advised the states and Union territories to consider discontinuing the Covid containment measures in view of a sharp decline in the number of fresh cases of the infection in the country.(With PTI inputs)