Delhi adds 312 fresh Covid cases, 3 new deaths; vaccination drive remains slow
Delhi reported 312 cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on Friday, crossing the 300-mark for the first time since mid-January. The city had last recorded 340 cases fifty days ago on January 14, according to daily data released by the Delhi government.
The city till Friday had witnessed 640,494 total number of cases of the virus, of which 627,797 had recovered or been discharged from hospitals.
While the positivity rate has continued to stay lower than 1% since the end of December last year, the increase in the number of daily cases comes amid what seem like new waves of the infection being reported from at least six states in the country —Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka.
Delhi on Thursday conducted around 60,000 tests – which is reported a day later in Friday’s health bulletin –of which 312 tested positive, pegging the state’s positivity rate at around 0.53%. Friday’s positivity rate was the highest since January, recorded on January 11 at 0.54%.
Just over 60,100 tests were conducted each day on average in March, an increase over the average 58,545 tests conducted each day in February. In January, over 67,100 tests were being conducted each day on average, the government data showed. The number of tests being conducted in Delhi, however, has gone down from its capacity of over 85,000 seen in December just after the city saw its third and worst wave of infection.
The positivity rate – proportion of samples that return positive among the total tested – reflects the spread of the infection, which is on the rise in the city. Delhi’s average positivity over the last seven days stood at 0.39%, an increase from 0.30% the week before, and 0.24% the week before that. Even though the positivity rate continues to remain below the 5% mark, which experts believe means that the spread of the infection is still under control, the slow rise is worrying.
“Any increase in the positivity rate is a cause of concern. There is a need for the government to increase the number of tests to detect those infected at earliest and isolate them. Anybody who has come in contact with a Covid patient should also be tested. This can help in controlling the number of infections before it grows big again,” said Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the department of epidemiology at the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Experts say that lax social distancing and masking norms, coupled with probable new variants in circulation, might be the reason for the current increase in number of cases, as the sero-surveillance conducted in January had shown that over 56% of Delhiites had antibodies against the Sars-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19.
“The current rise is likely to be due to variant strains that are more infectious. So, even if 56% of the people have some immunity against the virus, it is spreading quickly among the rest. If that is the case, there could be an increase in the number of cases again, as is being seen in Maharashtra,” said Dr Shobha Broor, former head of the department of microbiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
She, however, expressed confidence that the ongoing vaccination drive against the disease might help in keeping he number of hospitalisations and deaths low.
On Friday, 21,897 persons received their first shot against the infection and 5,160 completed their two-dose course. There was a rush of people to get the shot at private centres, yet only 67% of the available slots were used on Friday. In government centres, only 28% of the slots were used, reflecting a slow vaccination drive.
So far, the disease has killed 10,918 people in the city including the three who died on Thursday. Although the cumulative case fatality ratio – proportion of deaths among those who test positive – has reduced to 1.70% in Delhi, the number of hospitalisations has started increasing again. As on Thursday night, there were 599 persons with Covid-19 admitted to various city hospitals.