Delhi in a Covid-19 spiral as experts call for tighter curbs

Delhi reports a new record in daily cases at 17,282, 104 die of Covid-19 in 24 hours. Over the last two days, new cases have increased by 586% and the city now has 50,000 active cases
By Anonna Dutt, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2021 02:41 AM IST
The 104 new deaths reported in Delhi’s health bulletin on Wednesday was the highest since November 30. (Photo by Sanchit Khanna / Hindustan Times)

The number of new Covid-19 infections in the Capital soared past previous records, with 17,282 cases recorded in the 24 hours till Wednesday and the test positivity rate – a crucial proxy for outbreak severity – was higher than it had been in the city’s last two waves, bringing yet more signs that the crisis has taken an unprecedented turn and may now require stringent curbs.

Over the last two weeks, new cases have increased by 586%, and the city now has over 50,000 active cases – the most it has ever had – in what may turn into a threat for the health care capacity. Experts believe the curbs announced last week may have come too late and the Capital may have little option but to enter a circuit-breaker in which non-essential services are shut.

The 104 new deaths reported in Delhi’s health bulletin on Wednesday was the highest since November 30, while the test positivity rate of 15.92% was the highest since June 26, when tests were far fewer in number. In the last 24 hours till Wednesday, 108,534 tests were carried out.

“The number of deaths have also started going up. If the surge in cases continues at a current pace, the deaths will go up further proportionally. Among the people who have tested positive today, the deaths will be reported after about two weeks,” said Dr Puneet Mishra, professor of community medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Dr Mishra warned that the number of deaths will climb faster if the health infrastructure buckles under the load of new cases. “If we do not follow all the Covid appropriate behaviour strictly – and the markets are still crowded – the situation will get worse. We will reach a situation where hospitals start running out of beds in the next few days,” he said.

Of the 50,736 people with Covid-19 in Delhi as on Wednesday, close to 17.5% are in hospitals.

After cases began climbing last month, authorities in Delhi last week announced a night curfew and curbed the number of people that can gather for weddings, eat at restaurants or attend offices. Save for some services such as swimming pools, most activities are allowed.

“India saw 185,000 cases, which have surpassed the last peak of 99,000. In Delhi, just like the entire country, the cases are steadily increasing. The trend has not slowed down yet; unlike last time, when the number went down with each passing day,” Delhi’s health minister Satyender Jain on Wednesday.

Officials in Delhi have attempted to increase the number of beds.

“In the Delhi Govt app, the total bed count was 6,000 one week ago. Now, the count is more than 13,000. Orders have been given to increase the number of beds. We are increasingly adding more beds. I can assure you that the number of beds in Delhi is double that of any state,” Jain added.

Jain said the Delhi government has asked the central government to up bed capacity as well. “During the last peak, 4,100 beds were available with the central government. Today the count is 1,100. We have requested them to increase the beds and discussions are being held daily. The surge has been unprecedented, and the Delhi Government has ramped up the infrastructure in the hospitals. I’m sure they will too. They have not refused to do so, and are working towards it,” said Jain.

But there are now questions whether these will be adequate without more curbs. A similar surge in India’s financial capital Mumbai forced authorities to order lockdown-like curbs as hospital beds became scarce and medical oxygen shortages became widespread.

The sudden surge in the Capital has raised several other questions: whether the city is battling a more transmissible variant or if the wave of infections being recorded now are a result of the wedding and festive season last month?

Experts say the curbs announced last week may have come too late. “We should expect more of the same over the next few days. All the restrictions that are being put in place in Delhi now should have been taken a few weeks ago when we saw an increasing trend in the number of cases,” said said Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the department of epidemiology at the Indian Council of Medical Research.

“Delhi ministers said that there is no need to worry, there are enough beds. Very little was done to prevent the infections. I do realise that there are economic constraints; but the same constraints are in place even now and we are still implementing the restrictions, aren’t we,” he added.

A second expert said at the least, the focus must be on Covid-safe behaviour. “Now that the infection is the community and it is affecting people indiscriminately, the only thing that we can do is maintain Covid appropriate behaviour and treat those who get sick. If beds start getting full, we have to ensure that patients receive good support and care at home so that most of them do not rush to hospitals,” said Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the department of community medicine at Safdarjung hospital.

He added that a Maharashtra-like lockdown or a country-wide lockdown may complicate the situation further. “If you see Maharashtra, the lockdown has had little impact on the number of cases, but it has resulted in migrant workers leaving the city again. This will just lead to spreading the infection to the other parts of the country,” he said.

Kejriwal to meet L-G

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will discuss the coronavirus situation in the city with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal during a meeting on Thursday, the chief minister’s office said on Wednesday.

The city recorded 17,282 fresh cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, the highest single-day surge here till date, and over 100 fatalities, according to Delhi government’s daily health bulletin data.

“In view of the spread of Covid-19 infection, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal will discuss the situation with Lieutenant Governor at 11 am on Wednesday,” the Chief Minister’s Office tweeted.

The number of new Covid-19 infections in the Capital soared past previous records, with 17,282 cases recorded in the 24 hours till Wednesday and the test positivity rate – a crucial proxy for outbreak severity – was higher than it had been in the city’s last two waves, bringing yet more signs that the crisis has taken an unprecedented turn and may now require stringent curbs.

Over the last two weeks, new cases have increased by 586%, and the city now has over 50,000 active cases – the most it has ever had – in what may turn into a threat for the health care capacity. Experts believe the curbs announced last week may have come too late and the Capital may have little option but to enter a circuit-breaker in which non-essential services are shut.

The 104 new deaths reported in Delhi’s health bulletin on Wednesday was the highest since November 30, while the test positivity rate of 15.92% was the highest since June 26, when tests were far fewer in number. In the last 24 hours till Wednesday, 108,534 tests were carried out.

“The number of deaths have also started going up. If the surge in cases continues at a current pace, the deaths will go up further proportionally. Among the people who have tested positive today, the deaths will be reported after about two weeks,” said Dr Puneet Mishra, professor of community medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Dr Mishra warned that the number of deaths will climb faster if the health infrastructure buckles under the load of new cases. “If we do not follow all the Covid appropriate behaviour strictly – and the markets are still crowded – the situation will get worse. We will reach a situation where hospitals start running out of beds in the next few days,” he said.

Of the 50,736 people with Covid-19 in Delhi as on Wednesday, close to 17.5% are in hospitals.

After cases began climbing last month, authorities in Delhi last week announced a night curfew and curbed the number of people that can gather for weddings, eat at restaurants or attend offices. Save for some services such as swimming pools, most activities are allowed.

“India saw 185,000 cases, which have surpassed the last peak of 99,000. In Delhi, just like the entire country, the cases are steadily increasing. The trend has not slowed down yet; unlike last time, when the number went down with each passing day,” Delhi’s health minister Satyender Jain on Wednesday.

Officials in Delhi have attempted to increase the number of beds.

“In the Delhi Govt app, the total bed count was 6,000 one week ago. Now, the count is more than 13,000. Orders have been given to increase the number of beds. We are increasingly adding more beds. I can assure you that the number of beds in Delhi is double that of any state,” Jain added.

Jain said the Delhi government has asked the central government to up bed capacity as well. “During the last peak, 4,100 beds were available with the central government. Today the count is 1,100. We have requested them to increase the beds and discussions are being held daily. The surge has been unprecedented, and the Delhi Government has ramped up the infrastructure in the hospitals. I’m sure they will too. They have not refused to do so, and are working towards it,” said Jain.

But there are now questions whether these will be adequate without more curbs. A similar surge in India’s financial capital Mumbai forced authorities to order lockdown-like curbs as hospital beds became scarce and medical oxygen shortages became widespread.

The sudden surge in the Capital has raised several other questions: whether the city is battling a more transmissible variant or if the wave of infections being recorded now are a result of the wedding and festive season last month?

Experts say the curbs announced last week may have come too late. “We should expect more of the same over the next few days. All the restrictions that are being put in place in Delhi now should have been taken a few weeks ago when we saw an increasing trend in the number of cases,” said said Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the department of epidemiology at the Indian Council of Medical Research.

“Delhi ministers said that there is no need to worry, there are enough beds. Very little was done to prevent the infections. I do realise that there are economic constraints; but the same constraints are in place even now and we are still implementing the restrictions, aren’t we,” he added.

A second expert said at the least, the focus must be on Covid-safe behaviour. “Now that the infection is the community and it is affecting people indiscriminately, the only thing that we can do is maintain Covid appropriate behaviour and treat those who get sick. If beds start getting full, we have to ensure that patients receive good support and care at home so that most of them do not rush to hospitals,” said Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the department of community medicine at Safdarjung hospital.

He added that a Maharashtra-like lockdown or a country-wide lockdown may complicate the situation further. “If you see Maharashtra, the lockdown has had little impact on the number of cases, but it has resulted in migrant workers leaving the city again. This will just lead to spreading the infection to the other parts of the country,” he said.

Kejriwal to meet L-G

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will discuss the coronavirus situation in the city with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal during a meeting on Thursday, the chief minister’s office said on Wednesday.

The city recorded 17,282 fresh cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, the highest single-day surge here till date, and over 100 fatalities, according to Delhi government’s daily health bulletin data.

“In view of the spread of Covid-19 infection, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal will discuss the situation with Lieutenant Governor at 11 am on Wednesday,” the Chief Minister’s Office tweeted.

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