The sudden surge in COVID-19 cases has forced India's national capital, New Delhi, to bring back the mask mandate, weeks after the government made wearing masks voluntary.

The government had to make wearing masks mandatory again after the city saw a nearly three-fold rise in the number of daily COVID cases last week. The decision was taken during a high-level review meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) held on Wednesday.

The meeting was attended by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, and revenue minister Kailash Gahlot. The government has decided to again impose a fine of Rs 500 if someone is seen without a mask.

Delhi had reported 632 Covid-19 cases with a positivity rate of 4.42% on Tuesday. On Monday, the daily tally was 501, while the positivity rate was 7.72%.

"Aggressive COVID testing in metro and railway stations, and airports will restart soon. More emphasis will be laid on vaccination as it has helped to fight the disease, and a Rs 500 fine for not wearing masks will be imposed, along with strict enforcement drives," a DDMA official told The Indian Express.

"Further, a decision has been taken to keep a close watch on the situation as B.1.10 and B.1.12 variants of COVID-19 are said to be more transmissible. The hospitalization trend will also be closely monitored for the next fortnight and genome sequencing of all RT-PCR positive samples will be conducted, " the person added.

The decision to bring back mask mandates comes a day after the central government wrote to the government of Delhi and three other states to reinforce masks. The Union Health Ministry had written to the governments of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Mizoram over the surge in coronavirus infections.

Meanwhile, the country's reproduction number (R-value) for COVID-19, an indicator of how quickly a disease is spreading, has also increased to over 1 for the first time since mid-January, when the country was in the middle of its third COVID wave. India reported 2,380 COVID-19 cases and 56 deaths on Thursday.

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