Delhi's daily Covid-19 cases breach 10,000 mark
- Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the situation in Delhi was “very serious”, issuing a warning to people to not step out of their homes unless it was urgent.
Delhi on Sunday reported 10,774 fresh Covid-19 cases, the highest single-day tally of infections in the national capital since the pandemic began raging across countries last year, as the outbreak expanded its footprint in the fourth wave at rates not seen during the previous three peaks in the city.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the situation in Delhi was “very serious”, issuing a warning to people to not step out of their homes unless it was urgent.
Sunday’s tally eclipsed the previous record of 8,593 new infections in a day recorded on November 11. The Capital also added 48 deaths of the infection on Sunday, the most fatalities in a day since December 14, when the city logged 60 deaths. The spike was also the highest jump in two consecutive daily tallies, with Delhi adding 2,877 more new cases compared to Saturday, when the Capital recorded 7,897 new infections.
“Cases have escalated in a big way in the last 10-15 days… The situation is very serious,” Kejriwal said in a digital news briefing.
For the week ending April 11, Delhi added an average of 6,963 fresh infections every day. Just a week ago, the seven-day average of cases was 2,671. This means that daily infections have leapt 161% in a week. As HT reported on April 9, this is a week-on-week rate of increase not seen at any point in the Capital even during the third wave of infections.
Delhi’s fourth wave of infections comes amid a second nationwide surge, which has surpassed the previous peaks recorded at the national level as well as in individual states, HT’s Covid-19 dashboard shows. Experts have attributed the rise in infections in the Capital to poor adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour such as masking and social distancing, and to potential impacts of the mutant variants of the coronavirus.
Dr Jacob John, former head of the clinical virology department at Christian Medical College in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore, said, “Mutant variants are definitely one of the main factors behind the current surge across India. We need more recent state-wise data on genome sequencing results to understand the role of mutant variants and thorough analysis. India anyway started focusing very late on mutant strains. We should not waste more time.”
The surge has forced the Delhi government to reintroduce curbs on schools, transport and gatherings, even as the Capital put in place a night curfew between 10pm and 5am to control the spread of the infection.
On Saturday, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) brought back sweeping restrictions on activities to curb the alarming spread of Covid-19, banning large public gatherings, curtailing crowds in wedding and funerals, and capping maximum capacity for restaurants, cinema halls and public buses among other things.
Kejriwal expressed concern at the ongoing current surge. While he ruled out a lockdown in the Capital, he warned that if the city’s health care infrastructure was overwhelmed, it may force the state government’s hand.
“I believe that lockdown is no solution to the pandemic. We have seen that once. It is only for times when a state’s health system collapses. If we have your support and the health care management system is under control, then there will be no need for a lockdown. But if it goes out of control, we may be forced to impose a lockdown,” the chief minister said.
The Capital has seen three distinct surges, or waves, of the viral infections. The first was between early May and early July, the second was in September, while the third was reported between the second week of October and November-end.
During the first wave, the seven-day average of cases peaked at 3,446 and the week-on-week growth touched a high of 101%. In the second wave, which peaked at 4,174 cases in mid-September, the growth rate never went beyond 58%.
Even during the third wave, when the seven-day average of new cases soared to 7,341 in mid-November, the week-on-week growth rate remained under 40%.
The test positivity rate, which is considered a crucial metric to gauge the spread of an infection in a region, has also shot up sharply over the past few weeks. The city reported a positivity rate of 9.43%, showed the Delhi government’s daily health bulletin on Sunday. A week ago, this number was at 4.64%, while two weeks ago, the rate was 2.35%.
To be sure, Delhi also conducted the most tests in a single day on Sunday, collecting 114,288 samples to check for the infection, greater than the previous high of 109,398, recorded on Friday. Most of the tests on Sunday — 67% — were conducted using the more reliable reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) technique.
Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the division of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said, “People have let their guards down in terms of adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour, and this is visible everywhere around us now. This has contributed to the ongoing surge majorly. While the government has to scale up its testing, tracing, containment and vaccination strategies to arrest the spread of the disease at the earliest, people will have to adhere to the regulations that are in force in Delhi.”
After the third wave, the case trajectory and deaths dropped sharply to lows not seen since the early months of the breakout of the coronavirus disease, and the pandemic seemed to decline.
The fifth serological survey conducted between January 15 and 23 revealed that 56% of samples collected during the study had antibodies against the Sars-Cov-2 virus, which causes the coronavirus disease.
Delhi’s test positivity rate fell to an all-time low of 0.17% on February 16, as the infections reported a lull in the city. On that day, cases too, fell to a 292-day low of 94.
Dr Kant said, “Mass vaccination looks like the only way to achieve herd immunity now. It is clear that natural antibodies do not last long. Delhi recorded a sero prevalence of 56% in February but still the virus is raging in the Capital now. Also, sero-surveys only told us about detection of antibodies among individuals, but not about the quality and quantity of the antibodies detected in those individuals. These are areas in which we still need more data to understand the disease, its trends and to control its spread more effectively.”