Delhi plans infra for up to 12,000 Covid-19 cases in a day
Amid the worrying surge in cases in Delhi and the onset of the winter season, the Union home ministry has called a special review meeting with Delhi government officials on Monday to check the spiralling of infections.Updated: Nov 01, 2020, 05:02 IST
The Delhi government plans to add about 5,000 more dedicated beds to be able to handle up to 12,000 daily cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), documents prepared to augment the health care infrastructure show amid an alarming surge in infections in the national Capital.
For four days in a row till Friday, new Covid-19 cases in Delhi set single-day records, with a rising positivity rate indicating that the Capital is possibly entering the third and worst wave yet of the outbreak. On Saturday, Delhi reported 5,062 new Covid-19 cases and the positivity rate jumped to 11.42%.
The plan to ramp up the number of beds to 20,604 by adding 4,891 additional beds in about two weeks has been prepared by the Delhi government’s health and family welfare department on the basis of projections made by an expert panel headed by Niti Aayog member Dr VK Paul. The Delhi government’s document, seen by HT, said that the panel projected the “worst-case scenario” in which the number of daily Covid-19 cases in Delhi could hit about 12,000 by the last week of November. The surge has primarily been projected on the basis of increased activity during the festival season.
Amid the worrying surge in cases in Delhi and the onset of the winter season, the Union home ministry has called a special review meeting with Delhi government officials on Monday to check the spiralling of infections, people familiar with the matter told HT on Friday. With 5,891 new cases on Friday, Delhi set a new record for the highest single-day new infections for the fourth day in a row. On Saturday, the total number of cases in the Capital stood at 386,706.
Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain, however, ruled out the possibility of imposing new restrictions or a lockdown in the city to control the Covid-19 outbreak. “The virus is at the community transmission stage. When a city is in the community transmission stage, it is impossible to wipe out the spread of infection with any form of lockdown. Also, it will probably take 2-3 months more for the Covid-19 vaccine to arrive here. So, till then, mask is the only vaccine and the Delhi government is conducting an intensive awareness campaign on this. Enforcement agencies have also been asked to intensify the crackdown against violators of Covid-19 appropriate behaviour,” Jain said.
“The planned escalation includes 1,558 additional beds in Delhi government hospitals, 1,092 additional beds in central government hospitals and 2,241 additional beds in private hospitals. The anticipated enhancement of beds in the private hospitals would be subject to the outcome of pending litigation in the Delhi high court as well as on need basis,” said the document, which has been presented to Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) chairperson, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, and vice-chairperson and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal apart from the expert committee led by Dr Paul.
The Delhi health minister said that as of Saturday, the Capital had over 9,400 Covid-19 beds vacant, including 445 intensive care unit (ICU) beds with ventilators and 691 ICU beds without ventilators. When asked about the need for more ICU beds, especially those with ventilators or oxygen support, an official said that these will get a boost in the coming days as the central government has sanctioned setting up of PSA oxygen concentrators in eight Delhi government hospitals. “And this is just the first phase, more will be installed later. This will be a big boost for infrastructure set-up of oxygen facilities in Delhi. In the last DDMA meeting held on October 23, Dr Paul had suggested enhancing the efforts for quarantining contacts till they are confirmed negative for Covid-19. He also advised to further increase the number of contacts traced per positive case. Districts have been asked to enquire with each positive case if they had recently engaged in any group activity and if so, they must be tracked, tested and quarantined until tested negative,” the senior official from the health department said on condition of anonymity.
While the government’s response to an RTI showed that till September 30, it tracked only around two contacts per Covid-19 case in the city, the same was taken up to 13 per case during the month of October, the health official added.
“Special emphasis continues to be given to the home isolation strategy and only four deaths in the last 3.5 months among home isolation cases have taken place. Moreover, the number of deaths within 72 hours of hospitalisation has also been reduced from 57.37% in June to 26.5% in October… The percentage of active cases within containment zones has increased from 15-20% earlier to 35% now,” read a document compiled by the DDMA on October 29.
Dr T Jacob John, retired professor of clinical virology at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, said Delhi faces the additional load of people moving in and out of the city on a daily basis. “Delhi is a mixed pot. It has 20 million people living within the city, which is equivalent to a country and on top of that there are several lakhs of people from other cities who commute through the Capital every day. So, it is natural that Delhi will continue to face the brunt of multiple waves of Covid-19 cases. But, this nature of the city also makes it equally impossible for the city to bring back the restrictions that were once in place... It also appears that the virus has now become more infectious, but at the same time it also appears that its severity has somewhat reduced resulting in a lower mortality rate...,” said John.