Omicron: Delhi to witness muted NYE celebrations again

Omicron plays spoilsport: Delhiites, eateries stare at muted NYE celebrations yet again

Several states, including cities of Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Delhi, have brought in new restrictions ahead of the New Year celebrations

Policemen patrol during the night curfew between 11 pm to 5 am imposed by the Delhi government to curb the spread of Covid-19. Credit: PTI Photo

Puneet Tandon and his family were planning to usher in the New Year in a tourist location with bottles of bubbly and a lavish spread of delicacies but the Omicron variant put a damper on the plan.

This is the second year in a row when Delhiites like 28-year-old Tandon will ring in the New Year with muted festivities as restrictions have been reimposed on social gatherings following the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases.

Several states, including cities of Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Delhi, have brought in new restrictions ahead of the New Year celebrations amid the lightning spread of the new-found variant.

Also Read | Should Delhiites worry about rising Omicron cases? Here's what the numbers say

"My family and I were really looking forward to travelling and partying this New Year's eve. Things were looking good, coronavirus cases were at an all-time low. But I guess 'kisi ki nazar lag gayi', and there is a sudden spurt in infections leading to all kinds of restrictions for party-goers," said Tandon, a Gurgaon-based marketing professional. 

"Not that I am blaming the government for putting out restrictions or anything else, it is just that I am really sad that this would be another year when we won't be able to celebrate or 'party hard' like we did during the pre-Covid-19 days on the occasion," he added.

According to a survey by English news app Inshorts, following the announcement of fresh curbs, about 63 per cent of Delhi residents said they will "stay at home", while 29 per cent said they would like to be part of "small get-togethers". Of the 15,000 people surveyed, four per cent said they would like to dine-out or travel on the occasion.

The present scenario is even more disheartening for the hospitality and food and beverage industry as they see their hopes of a long-awaited revival, during the most rewarding season of the year, being dashed by the emergence of omicron.

Also Read | Omicron is spreading in community: Delhi Health Minister

With the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) declaring a 'yellow alert' under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in the city, and imposing restrictions like night curfew between 10 pm to 5 am and limiting restaurant dining to 50 per cent, many restaurants, out of choice, bid adieu to most big-ticket events for the New Year's Eve.

Some renowned multi-chain hotels, in the name of adhering to the Covid-19 guidelines, have dropped the customary lavish buffets, live bands and DJ nights from the offering.

For instance, the Roseate Hotels and Resorts, which will be serving its "special meals" on the occasion, has called off its pre-planned New Year gala night in the light of new restrictions. The Radisson Blu MBD Hotel, Noida, keeping its focus on sit-down lunches and dinners only to usher in the New Year, has ditched the dance floors from their list of entertainment for their patrons.

"This variant has undoubtedly created an atmosphere of caution just when things were looking up for the hospitality sector and people were hoping to make the most of this year-end festivities. They are worried yet again," Sonica Malhotra Kandhari, Joint Managing Director, MBD Group told PTI.

"Dance floors which could probably be a cause of concern have been avoided in our list of entertainment. As a hotel, our focus has been gastronomical journeys to delight and usher in the New Year, therefore, we are opting to be cautious and organising only sit-down lunches and dinners," she explained.

Restaurants and bars are facing the heat too.

Also Read | Yellow alert to continue in Delhi as daily Covid-19 cases spike

While Baris, a Mediterranean restaurant in Greater Kailash, which overhauled its menu amid fresh restrictions, opted for a sundowner on the occasion. Anardana Hospitality, a casual dining bar in Delhi and Chandigarh, and Sana-di-ge, a coastal eatery here in Chanakyapuri, have cancelled their New Year celebrations altogether and are keeping it simple with an a la carte dining only.

"The reintroduction of restrictions for the festive period is a hammer blow to the sector.The rules will see the hospitality sector largely revert to the situation like last year, with social distancing and limited table reservations, no multiple table bookings," said Dr Shruti Malik, founder, Anardana Hospitality.

However, it is still not all gloom and doom for the hospitality sector as the strong pent-up demand for staycations remain largely unaffected by the onslaught of the virulent omicron variant.

According to experts in the travel industry, bookings for leisure destinations continue to show a healthy trend in this abysmal festive season.  

Where boutique hotel chain Renest Hotels & Resorts reported a "27 per cent" jump in bookings of rooms as compared to the last month, the "overwhelming booking response" at WelcomHeritage Hotels helped them make up for the "20 per cent loss" they incurred due to the emergence of the Omicron variant.  

"Bookings for rooms have been up for year-end at our leisure destinations by about 27 per cent as compared to last month. Till last week we were inundated with queries. This week there have been a few cancellations but still occupancy looks strong. People want to travel and stay in hotels though events had to be cancelled or tweaked as per different state laws," said Vishal Lonkar, General Manager (Brand Development) Renest Hotels & Resorts.

The national capital has been witnessing a gradual uptick in the number of cases over the last week with the positivity rate now climbing to 1.29 per cent. 

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