Low hospitalisations may mean major Covid-19 curbs stay off table in Delhi

Published on Apr 18, 2022 03:58 AM IST

“Any decision on bringing back the restrictions will be based on the occupancy of hospital beds, and not just the rising number of cases and positivity rate,” the official said, asking not to be named.

Covid-19 patients undergo treatment inside the Shehnai Banquet Hall, a Covid-19 care facility, in New Delhi.(PTI)
Covid-19 patients undergo treatment inside the Shehnai Banquet Hall, a Covid-19 care facility, in New Delhi.(PTI)
ByAlok KN Mishra

No transport and economic restrictions are likely to be imposed in Delhi immediately, owing to the flat rate of Covid-related hospitalisations, a senior official of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) said, days before the body’s Wednesday meeting, where the city’s pandemic situation will be reviewed, amid an uptick in its daily case count.

“Any decision on bringing back the restrictions will be based on the occupancy of hospital beds, and not just the rising number of cases and positivity rate,” the official said, asking not to be named.

The official added that since Omicron is still the dominant coronavirus variant in Delhi and hospitalisations are not increasing, harsh restrictions like the night curfew and curbs on transportation services are not likely to be back anytime soon, a DDMA official told HT

This is in concurrence with experts’ recommendations. Doctors have said that the city’s test positivity rate (which crossed the 5% mark on Saturday, but fell to 4.21% on Sunday) was likely being exaggerated by changes in the testing protocol and strategy. Most test requirements across the Capital have been set aside — at airports, for instance, in favour of vaccination certificates. As a result, most people now getting tests are likely those with flu-like symptoms.

Further, even as cases have risen over the past few days, the rate of hospitalisations has remained low. Over 99% hospital beds kept aside for Covid-19 patients in Delhi continue to remain, data from the state government showed.

Reintroducing restrictions will fuel panic and hit the economy and livelihood options, which is not favourable for either the government or residents, a Delhi government official said.

“This time, the main factor behind any decision on restrictions will be the growth in hospitalisations,” the official said.

On December 28, when the positivity rate remained over 0.5% for three consecutive days, DDMA sounded a yellow alert, under which only 50% of the seating capacity of a coach was allowed on the Delhi Metro, and passengers are barred from standing.

Only two passengers were allowed in cabs and auto and rickshaws. Educational institutions were closed and private offices were permitted 50% attendance. It also shut cinemas and gyms while markets were asked to operate on an odd-even basis between 8am to 10pm, besides a night curfew during which all non-essential movements were barred.

On Sunday the Covid-19 positivity rate in Delhi was over 5% for the second consecutive day. The Capital reported 517 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Traders are apprehensive about the possibility of restrictions, according to Brijesh Goyal, chairman of the Chamber of Trade and Industry.

“The DDMA should not impose any restrictions like it did during in December-January even though hospital beds were vacant,” Goyal said. “The recovery of business has started after two years. This is a marriage season and if restrictions are imposed, the traders will be hit very hard.”

When the positivity rate was 5.33% on April 16 (461 cases), 0.61% of the 9,753 beds in dedicated Covid hospitals were occupied and 99.39% beds were vacant. 100% of 875 beds in dedicated Covid care centres were vacant.

In comparison to the situation on April 1, when the positivity rate was 0.57% (131 cases), 0.59% of the 9,753 beds in dedicated Covid hospitals were occupied and 99.40% beds were vacant. 100% of 875 beds in dedicated Covid care centres were vacant.

“No significant change in hospitalisation has been witnessed in the last 15 days, even though the positivity rate during this period jumped from 0.57% to 5.33%. A detailed presentation on hospital occupancy, prevailing Covid situation in terms of positivity rate and spread, containment activities, tests, genome sequencing and deaths is being prepared for presentation in the DDMA meeting,” a health department official said, not wanting to be named.

“Restrictions will create panic because hospitalisations are very low as of now. We have to learn to live with coronavirus. The government should observe the situation very carefully,” said Dr S K Sarin, vice chancellor at the Institute of Liver & Biliary Sciences, who was chief of the expert panel formed by Delhi government to tackle Covid-19 in 2020.

“Making masks mandatory is necessary and the government should focus on bringing those who are not fully vaccinated under the vaccination net,” Dr Sarin said.

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