Community transmission of Covid-19 for Centre to declare: Delhi health minister

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Jun 11, 2020 01:37 AM IST

Experts suggests that the high number of coronavirus cases in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai is indicative of community transmission. However, the Delhi health minister has called it ‘technical term’ and left it for the Centre to declare.

Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain in a statement on Wednesday reiterated that there was transmission in the community in Delhi, but it was up to the central government to declare “community transmission”.

A long queue of people with ailments waiting outside the OPD at GB Pant Hospital in New Delhi on Wednesday.(Arvind Yadav/HT Photo)
A long queue of people with ailments waiting outside the OPD at GB Pant Hospital in New Delhi on Wednesday.(Arvind Yadav/HT Photo)

After a meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority a day ago, the minister had said that the government was unable to establish the source of infection in 50% of the cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the city.

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“There is transmission in the community, but whether it is community transmission or not that can be declared only by the Centre. It is a technical term,” said Jain. Union health secretary Preeti Sudan refused to respond on the matter.

Delhi has recorded 32,810 cases of Covid-19 and 984 deaths due to the infection till Wednesday, according to data provided by the Delhi government. With the rising number of cases in the city, the health minister also said that it was difficult to trace all contacts of the laboratory-confirmed cases.

“Earlier, in one case contact tracing would be done up to 600 people. Today, if we multiply 1,500 cases into 600 it gives us 900,000 people for contact tracing. So, contact tracing is being done only for immediate contacts and not for indirect contacts,” the minister said.

The high number of cases in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai is indicative of community transmission, say experts. “Although, ICMR has not published the report of their serology test, a high positivity has been reported among random samples. That is not possible without community transmission. And, the virus is going to spread further, the only positive thing is we will also develop herd immunity sooner. In the meanwhile, the situation is grim for the elderly and those with co-morbidities. All the government can do is streamline the health care services so that those in need can access it without hassle,” said Dr Shobha Broor, former head of the department of microbiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

The Delhi government also blamed the Centre for using the city’s airports to bring in people from other countries. “Delhi and Mumbai are the two cities where people were brought in from other nations via flights, and we warned the Centre against it but they did nothing to avoid the landing of flights in Delhi,” said Jain.

The minister also said that another lockdown would not help in curtailing the spread of the viral infection. “When the lockdown was imposed, there were 100 cases across the country and now that number has gone up to thousands. If we impose lockdown again, there will be no logic as the cases will increase from around 2.5 lakh to 25 lakh despite the lockdown,” he said.

Amit Singh, associate professor at the Centre for Infectious Disease Research, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru said, “We went into a lockdown a little early and even the relaxation of restrictions happened a little early. Other countries lifted their lockdown when their curve had started to come down, but we did it when the curve is going up exponentially. It was not well-timed. However, economic considerations have to be kept in mind. The only strategy that the government can now adopt is aggressively test and isolate those with the infection or close areas where they think the infection is circulating in the community.”

The Delhi government had on June 2 restricted its testing criteria excluding asymptomatic contacts who weren’t old or have known co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, or cancer. The Lieutenant Governor on Monday reversed the decision.

The health minister also said that the Delhi government had to be prepared as none of the predictions were coming true, such as people believing that the spread of Covid-19 would come down when the temperature increased.

“Epidemiologically, seasonality does not play a role when there is an epidemic because there is a high pool of susceptible people. This was also seen during the H1N1 pandemic, when for two years the seasonality had changed completely before the infection becoming endemic and starting to follow the pattern. The same is likely to happen with Covid-19,” said Dr Broor.

The health minister said the government was working towards arranging twice the number of beds than patients in the hospitals. “By June 15, around 7,000 beds will be occupied and by June 30, 15,000. We are preparing for the foreseeable situation of June 30, and for that, we are making preparations of the Covid infrastructure in stadiums, banquet halls, and hotels,” he said.

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    Anonna Dutt is a health reporter at Hindustan Times. She reports on Delhi government’s health policies, hospitals in Delhi, and health-related feature stories.

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