Christmas celebrations muted in Delhi amid Omicron fears

New Delhi: The Christian community in the national capital celebrated Christmas on Saturday with caution as fewer people reached churches amid concern over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) had directed district magistrates to ensure that no Christmas and New Year gatherings take place in the national capital.

However, after receiving various communications seeking clarity, it said on Thursday that religious places will remain open on Christmas and New Year’s Eve for celebrations and prayers, subject to strict compliance of Covid-appropriate behaviour.

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Talking about the midnight mass across churches in the city, Anil Joseph Thomas Couto, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi, said not many people stepped out for Christmas this year.

“Even though there is no such restriction on visitors, there was confusion regarding the DDMA order. So, not many people have come out this year. People seem a bit anxious due to the entire situation. We haven’t seen much footfall,” Couto told PTI.

He said a lot of churches made extra efforts by holding early services last evening.

“Even though churches were prepared to handle the situation keeping the Covid-related standard operating procedures in mind, the overall environment is not very positive and vibrant,” he said.

Father James Peter Raj of St Luke’s Church in Defence Colony also said that fewer people attended the celebrations this year.

“People were wearing masks and maintaining social distancing but the celebrations were less crowded than usual this year,” he said.

The Centenary Methodist Church in Lodhi Road had a “subdued service with fewer people in attendance”.

Restaurants across the city celebrated the festival, with most saying that footfall was as usual and DDMA guidelines are being followed.

The Crowne Plaza New Delhi, Okhla, was complying “strictly with all the government guidelines”, it only allowed advance bookings in order to prepare appropriate seating plans, its management said.

“The footfall has been regular at our restaurants with a mix of in-house guests as well as non-residents. We are complying strictly with all government guidelines as our patron’s safety is always our priority…We are offering assisted buffet servings to guests as well to minimise common touch points,” said Shuvendu Banerjee, general manager at the Crowne Plaza in Okhla.

On Saturday, Delhi on Saturday recorded 249 fresh Covid cases, the highest single-day rise since June 13, and one death while the positivity rate mounted to 0.43 per cent, according to data shared by the city health department.

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