Covid: Least active cases since June 1 in Delhi, 42% more beds than a month ago
The national capital now has a little less than 11,000 active cases of Covid-19, a number that is the lowest since June 1, according to data from Sunday that also shows how Delhi now has the 42% more beds than it had a month ago, suggesting it was amply prepared in case of a resurgence of cases.
According data released by the Delhi government in the past 45 days, the 10,994 active cases as on Sunday is roughly two-fifths of what it was on June 26 (27,657).
On that day a month ago, the capital was in the middle of what is now believed to be a peak since surmounted.
The number of new cases on June 26 was 3,460 and they represented 16% of those tested on that day, a number that is also known as the test positivity rate. On Sunday, the positivity rate was 5.32%.
Monday’s health bulletin released by the Delhi government also showed that less than a fifth of the hospital beds earmarked for treatment of Covid-19 patients was being utilised, with only 2,835 people being shown as hospitalised.
The city currently has 15,451 beds earmarked for Covid-19 in various government, private and makeshift field hospitals. Of these, 2,095 beds are intensive care units, which had a 36% occupancy as on Monday evening, according to the Delhi Corona App.
The 2,835 beds account for 18.35% of the state’s capacity, a number that is well under the 33% targeted occupancy rate by the Delhi government.
Last week, health minister Satyendar Jain said the government’s plan was to ensure that the city had thrice the number of hospital beds as active infections ready for surge preparedness.
“We cannot decide what to do based on a seven or 10 days’ trend. Today, we are getting just over a 1,000 cases a day, but we do not know whether the numbers would remain there. We are comfortable at the moment; if we scale down and then the cases start rising again, what will we do? Scaling back up is easier said than done. So, we need to wait and watch,” he said.
According to senior officials from Delhi’s health department, the decision is likely to come after the second round of sero-surveillance that is scheduled to be carried out between August 1 and 5.
“There is a meeting at the end of the week, where the issue of scaling back of preparations is likely to be taken up. However, a final decision will only come by mid-August after the second round of sero-surveillance. If the sero-surveillance shows that we are moving towards herd immunity then it will give people as well as the government some assurance,” the official, who asked not to be named, said. A serological survey involves randomised sampling of people from whom blood is collected to check for antibodies to the Sars-Cov-2, which would indicate how many people may have been infected and silently recovered – and thus immune to the disease for the time being.
Delhi’s first round of sero-surveillance, for which around 22,000 samples were collected between June 27 and July 5, found that almost 23% of the city’s residents had antibodies.
Herd immunity is the level of immunity prevalence that causes an outbreak to die out as the virus fails to find enough new vulnerable hosts.
Doctors have flagged the low occupancy in hospitals as a factor that could be hitting health care facilities for people with diseases other than Covid-19.
“Lok Nayak and GTB hospitals, both of which have been converted into Covid treatment facilities, are the biggest hospitals under the Delhi government catering to thousands of patients. Right now, both remain under-utilised and the patients undergoing treatment at these hospitals continue to await their turn. The government needs to maintain a buffer of beds in case there is a surge in Covid cases again, but they should start looking at moving towards normal,” said a doctor from 2,000-bed Lok Nayak hospital, Delhi’s biggest treatment Covid-19 centre, while asking not to be named
The drop in number of hospitalisations has been in tandem with a fall in the number of new cases. On Monday, Delhi recorded just 613 new cases of Covid-19, lowest since May 26. The number is lower due to fewer tests being done over the weekend but the proportion of tests that turned positive – around 5.3% -- was consistent with what has been seen over the past week.
The average positivity rate – the percentage of people who test positive among those tested – has reduced to 6.24% in the week ending on July 26, as compared to 7.61% the week before, and 8.96 the week before that.
Dr Abhishek Shankar, assistant professor of oncology at Lady Hardinge Medical College, said that there will be an “adverse and irreversible impact” on cancer treatment of about 1.5 million patients. “On average, treatment for cancer lasts anywhere between three to fifteen months. As per ICMR data, India’s annual cancer burden is about 15 lakh people. With the lockdown and all non-Covid-19 services being hampered March onwards, the treatment of all these people would have suffered. The treatment of Covid and other ailments should not have been mutually exclusive, but if you see an institute like National Cancer Centre has been completely converted for treatment of Covid-19. Plus, if there are Covid-19 patients in a hospital, immunocompromised cancer patients would understandably want to stay away.”