A renewed effort in Delhi
Delhi is in the middle of a crisis. With a surge in cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), an increase in fatality rate, widespread accounts of the struggle to get tested or/and get hospital admissions, and a projection of 532,000 cases by the end of July and the need for 150,000 beds by then, the pandemic has truly come home to the national capital. It was clear that the Delhi government, led by Arvind Kejriwal, needed help. The fact that Delhi is the Capital, there is a unique division of powers that exists between the Centre and the state, and Delhi’s health facilities are used by citizens across the country made it even more essential for the central government to step in.
On Sunday, following a meeting of the state disaster management authority, home minister Amit Shah announced a set of much-needed, welcome measures. The testing rate in the Capital will double in the next two days and triple in six days; the Centre will provide 500 railway coaches, which will add another 8,000 beds to Delhi’s health infrastructure; there will be rigorous contact tracing in containment zones; a high-level committee, within two days, will submit a report on rates to be charged by private hospitals for testing and treatment; new guidelines will be framed for funerals to reduce the waiting time for cremations and burials; the Centre will depute five senior officials to help Delhi with the health crisis; a joint team will inspect facilities in all Covid-19 hospitals; and the Centre will provide oxygen cylinders, ventilators, and other health supplies to the Delhi government.
Each of these measures is necessary. Ramping up testing is the only way to trace the infected and prevent further transmission. Contact tracing had almost collapsed in the city — and a renewed effort is much-needed. Private hospitals must be more responsible in their fee structures in times of the pandemic and a degree of regulation will help. Delhi needs support from all quarters to enhance hospital facilities and beds. What is inexplicable is why all of this was not done earlier, and why the period of the lockdown was not used better to anticipate the current situation and prepare for it. Belated as these interventions are, it is welcome and the focus must now be on implementing it. It is also important to constantly review Delhi’s battle against Covid-19, and provide additional support if necessary. For the sake of Delhi’s citizens, the Centre and the Delhi government must continue to work together at this moment.