Covid-19: Capital’s positivity dips below crucial 20% level

Rate lowest since April 14; is the worst over in this wave of infections for Delhi?
Covid-19 testing at Anand Vihar Bus Terminal in New Delhi.(HT Photo )
Covid-19 testing at Anand Vihar Bus Terminal in New Delhi.(HT Photo )
Published on May 11, 2021 01:28 AM IST
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ByAnonna Dutt, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

There were 12,651 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Delhi on Monday, the lowest since April 12, and the test positivity rate dipped below 20% for the first time since April 14 as more indications emerged of the Capital having been able to arrest to some degree the fourth wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

While the numbers reported in the government’s Covid bulletin corresponded to the typically fewer tests carried out on a Sunday, these are still lower than the numbers for the last three Sundays, when the city reported 23,582 (May 3), 20,201 (April 26) and 23,686 (April 19) cases.

More importantly, the fall in the positivity rate – the proportion of samples turning up a positive result – reinforced the signal, which was also supported anecdotally by several doctors who said they now have some room to let in new patients to their otherwise overburdened health care facilities.

At its peak, Delhi recorded 28,395 cases on April 20, soon after the chief minister expanded the night and weekend curfew protocols into a lockdown. That protocol has now been renewed several times, and will stay at least till May 17 in order to further flatten the curve.

The Capital’s active case load too has come down from 99,752 recorded on April 28 to 85,258 on Monday, while the number of available hospital beds has nearly doubled from 1,683 to 3,229 in this period, the Delhi government’s health bulletin.

Also read | Delhi records 12,651 fresh Covid-19 cases, 319 deaths; positivity rate dips

The test positivity rate reached a peak of 36.2% on April 22, and stayed above 30% for eight more days before starting to decline. In Monday’s bulletin, it dipped below the 20% mark for the first time in over three weeks. To be sure, this number needs to come down below 5% for the outbreak to be considered under control, according to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

Experts said the surge in cases was a stark reminder of why India cannot afford to be careless in its preparations. “The number of cases being reported has come down but the hospitals and ICUs are still full. To prevent another surge like this, we need to look at why it happened. It happened because of the absolute complacency -- people not wearing masks, having parties and weddings, travelling and thinking that Covid is in Maharashtra but Delhi is free of it.

“The second reason is the natural course of a viral disease -- Covid-19 resurges every 50 to 100 days or so. Third, there were variants of concern causing infections,” said Dr GC Khilnani, former head of the department of pulmonology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

According to staff in two hospitals, the rush of patients seen towards the end of April appears to have abated, and improvements in the supply of medical oxygen has alleviated a crisis that at one point led to repeated distress calls.

“We have now set up an oxygen generation plant that augments our daily requirement. We are better off now and are able to admit more patients. We have 110 oxygen-dependent patients at the moment against our listed capacity of 76 oxygen beds,” said Dr Sunil Kohli, head of the department of medicine at Hakeem Abdul Hameed Centenary Hospital. Several beds were not being utilised as the supply of oxygen was uncertain last week.

Dr PK Bharadwaj, chief executive director of Saroj Hospital said, “Now that the supply of oxygen has stabilised we have increased the number of beds in our hospital from 120 to 150 and the number of ICU beds have been increased from 53 to 63 now.”

In all, the city has recorded 1,336,218 cases and 19,663 deaths, of which 319 took place on Sunday.

This is the fourth distinct wave of cases in the Capital -- at the peak of the first, there were 84 deaths recorded in a day on average in mid-June. In the second wave, which peaked in early October, 42 people died in a day.

Watch | Oxygen Express with highest volume of LMO leaves from Hapa to Delhi

A third surge occurred after Diwali, claiming the lives of 116 people on average a day in the third week of November.

Till now, in the fourth wave, the most number of deaths recorded as an average of seven days is at 398, which was recorded on May 3.

On Sunday, Kejriwal announced the extension of the lockdown and said the curbs will be stricter, with the Delhi Metro services halted and people no longer allowed to hold wedding ceremonies in public places.

“We must prepare for the third wave. In this wave, Delhi recorded a maximum of 28,000 cases in a day. The whole infrastructure was under pressure after this. The scale at which we are creating infrastructure, we will be able to deal even if 30,000 daily cases are reported in next wave,” Kejriwal told reporters on Monday.

Experts now believe the city will need to accelerate the vaccination campaign in order to avoid a crisis as the one seen in recent weeks if it wants to allow businesses, offices and shops to reopen. “Along with the lockdown we need to increase vaccination. The vaccination drive started with a bang but has slowed down for the want of doses. Unless we vaccinate a large number of people transmission will not stop in the long run,” said Dr Khilnani.

The city has raised an alarm about the availability of its vaccine stocks, with the process becoming shrouded in uncertainty since the Union government stepped away from a part of the process, leaving states and private hospitals to negotiate with manufacturers directly.

“There is only one day of Covaxin left in Delhi and only three to four days of Covishield. We need vaccines at the earliest,” Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain said on Monday.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021