Delhi health minister attributes spike in Covid-19 cases to festive season, change in contact tracing strategy
In its response to an RTI application filed by this reporter, the Delhi government’s state surveillance unit said that between March, when the first Covid-19 case was detected in the city, and September, 30, 555,662 contacts of Covid-19 cases were trackedUpdated: Oct 29, 2020, 15:00 IST
A day after Delhi recorded the highest ever single-day spike in infections with 5,673 Covid-19 cases, health minister Satyendar Jain attributed it to the festive season and a change in the administration’s contact tracing strategy.
Talking to reporters on Thursday, Jain assured that Delhi is well-prepared for another surge in Covid-19 cases in the winter months. An expert committee headed by NITI Ayog member VK Paul has said the number of cases in Delhi could go up to 15,000 a day during the winter months.
Jain said the number is unlikely to touch the 15,000-mark.
“We have changed our strategy by strengthening our contact tracing system now. We are seeing a surge in daily Covid-19 cases not only because more people are coming out owing to the festivities, but also because of this change in strategy.”
Explaining the latest strategy, Jain said until last week, the government used to test contacts of Covid-19 positive persons only if they showed symptoms. “But it was realised that contact tracing per Covid-19 case was not being done properly. Hence, now directions have been issued to test every person who came in close contact with the Covid-19 positive case even if they are not showing symptoms. In fact, we are also trying to get many of them tested for a second time after four days or a week. This is why the positivity rate is also increasing. So, now we are trying to test 5-6 contacts per Covid case to break the cycle of infection.”
In its response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by this reporter, the Delhi government’s state surveillance unit said that between March, when the first Covid-19 case was detected in the city, and September, 30, 555,662 contacts of Covid-19 cases were tracked. Till September 30, Delhi had a cumulative of 282,752 Covid-19 cases, as per the health bulletin of October 1.
This means on average only around 2 people per Covid-19 case in Delhi were traced till September 30. Community surveillance or contact tracing is one of the mainstays of the government’s strategy to fight Covid-19 transmission in the country.
The Delhi government’s response to the RTI application dated October 14 also said that of the 555,662 contacts of Covid-19 cases that were traced till September 30, as many as 33,882 contacts ultimately had tested positive.
The health minister appealed to the people to take full caution in the coming festival days which include following social distancing norms and wearing masks.
Also Read: Covid-19: What you need to know today
On hospital arrangements made by the government for a surge in cases, Jain said the city administration is “well-prepared” for the coming days and added that as of date more than 10,000 beds are vacant in the city hospitals for Covid patients.
On Wednesday, 5,673 new cases of the viral infection were reported. The positivity rate – the proportion of samples that returned positive among those tested – also was over 9%. This happened for the first time since the first week of September when Delhi was conducting only about 20,000 tests a day.
The number of cases in the city started increasing again in October as the government scaled up the more reliable RT-PCR tests. On Wednesday, over 17,000 RT-PCR tests were conducted in the city for the first time.