The MHA accused the Delhi administration of not taking steps to enhance testing capacity, particularly for RT-PCR, which remained static at around 20,000 RTPCR tests for a long time.(File photo)
The MHA accused the Delhi administration of not taking steps to enhance testing capacity, particularly for RT-PCR, which remained static at around 20,000 RTPCR tests for a long time.(File photo)

Delhi govt knew of Nov surge in Covid cases, did nothing: Centre to SC

On November 15, Shah conducted a joint meeting of officials in the Capital and spruced up efforts to increase medical infrastructure by way of additional ICU beds, ramping up testing facilities, contact tracing, surveillance, and availability of medical workers.
By HT Correspondents | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2020 12:23 AM IST

New Delhi

The Union government on Friday told the Supreme Court that Delhi took no effective steps to control the Covid situation despite being aware of an expected surge in November with the confluence of winter, the festival season, and a spike in pollution. The contention drew a sharp reactions from the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which said the Centre was playing “dirty politics”.

In an affidavit detailing the circumstances that led Union home minister Amit Shah to personally monitor preparedness in Delhi on account of rising cases in November, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) said, “The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) was aware that the confluence of winter, festival season and pollution were likely to witness a surge in cases. This foreknowledge ought to have led to strict enforcement and IEC measures being instituted well in time. However, this was not done.”

On November 15, Shah conducted a joint meeting of officials in the Capital and spruced up efforts to increase medical infrastructure by way of additional ICU beds, ramping up testing facilities, contact tracing, surveillance, and availability of medical workers.

Pointing to the alleged pitfalls in the Delhi government’s action observed by the ministry during several rounds of meetings over the past months, the affidavit said the Arvind Kejriwal government was informed in advance by an expert group headed by VK Paul, Member NITI Aayog, that Delhi should anticipate for a surge of around 15,000 cases a day in November and must provide for about 6,500 ICU beds.

“Against this recommendation, GNCTD did not take any timely measures to increase the ICU beds from the present level of around 3,500, thus causing a sudden pressure to come on the health and medical infrastructure in Delhi,” stated the affidavit filed by MHA joint secretary Sandeep Kumar Jindal.

The MHA accused the Delhi administration of not taking steps to enhance testing capacity, particularly for RT-PCR, which remained static at around 20,000 RTPCR tests for a long time. “Patients who were under home isolation were not properly traced. In addition, house-to-house surveillance, contact tracing, quarantining and clinical management were also not done properly, which led to the spread of infection,” the affidavit added.

In response, the Aam Aadmi Party termed the central government’s affidavit in the Supreme Court as “unfortunate” and “dirty politics”.

The party accused the Centre of not giving adequate funds for Covid-19 management and alleged it was yet to provide at least 550 more ICU beds in Delhi, which they said was assured by Amit Shah on November 15 in his meeting with chief minister Kejriwal and lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal.

“Comments of the central government about the Delhi government in its affidavit before the Supreme Court are very unfortunate. It is extremely unfortunate that the central government has chosen to play dirty politics in this critical hour. The affidavit seems to have been drafted by a BJP spokesperson, rather than by the Union government, which is meant to work in collaboration with the states at the time of a pandemic. The affidavit is also factually incorrect,” AAP said in a statement.

It added, “However, the Delhi government is worried about the well-being of its people and will continue to work together with all governments and all agencies as it has been doing so far. We hope that the central government will also refrain from playing dirty politics. Mr Amit Shah (had) promised to provide 750 ICU beds within 72 hours in the meeting held on 15 November. Till date, only 200 beds have been provided. We hope the Centre will provide the rest of the beds soon.”

“The central government has deprived Delhi of all funds (that have been) provided to other state governments during this epidemic on the flimsy premise that Delhi is a Union Territory. Therefore, we hope that the central government will do something concrete for Delhiites rather than play blame game,” AAP said.

The Delhi government spokespersons did not comment on the matter.

Delhi government officials, who did not wish to be identified, said the government had scaled up tests from around 20,000 per day to around 60,000 per day in September when the city witnessed a sharp spike in cases.

The Capital at present is going through a third surge. While the highest number of cases in a day (8,593) was recorded on November 11, the highest deaths in a day (131) were on November 18.

“Overall positivity in Delhi is coming down since 7 Nov. This is 8.65% now as compared to 15.26% on Nov 7. For the last 7 consecutive days cases are less than 7,000,” Delhi’s health minister Satyendar Jain said in a tweet on Friday.

Jain shared data that showed that between November 1 and 25, a total of 1,314,385 Covid-19 tests were conducted in Delhi – of which 457,683 were RT-PCR tests and the rest rapid antigen.

According to figures made available by the ministry in the affidavit, with 9.2 million Covid-19 cases of which 0.44 million are active, India is faring “remarkably well” in restricting the spread. “Recovery rate has gone up to 93.7%. Average cases per day have reduced by 50% since the past eight weeks. Our case fatality rate remains low at 1.46% compared to global average of 2.36%…We will continue making efforts to reduce fatality rate to less than 1% and accelerate our efforts in reducing the positivity rate which stands at 6.9%,” the affidavit stated.

This was largely attributable to 10 states that constituted 77% of the active case load for the country. Delhi figures at the third place constituting 8.5%to the national tally. Maharashtra leads with nearly 19%, Kerala (14.7%), followed by Delhi, West Bengal, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh.

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