Covid hospitalisations drop in Mumbai, Delhi’s plateau
The two cities that were earliest urban hot spots of the Omicron wave, but in recent days, they have seen their case trajectories start to dip.
In the ongoing third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mumbai seems to have gotten over the worst with hospitalisation numbers steadily dropping by the day, and Delhi seems to be getting there, with hospitalisation numbers plateauing.
The two cities that were earliest urban hot spots of the Omicron wave, but in recent days, they have seen their case trajectories start to dip. And despite the reputation of Omicron causing relatively milder infections, both cities saw a spike in absolute number of hospitalisations, although those numbers have now declined in Mumbai and seem set to in Delhi too.
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In Mumbai, the seven-day average of daily infections was 8,816 cases a day for the week ended Wednesday – a drop of 50% from the peak of 17,523 average cases a day for the week leading to January 12. In Delhi, this peak came three days later, as average daily cases soared to 23,529 for the week ended January 15. Since then, this number has dropped 21%, with 18,607 new infections reported for the week ended Wednesday.
From 1,874 beds occupied in Mumbai on December 30 (the earliest that this data is available), hospitalisation soared to 7,432 Covid patients admitted to hospitals on January 9, according to data released by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Since then, however, this number has dropped nearly every single day. As on Wednesday, only 5,058 beds are occupied by Covid patients in the city’s hospitals – a drop of 32% in 10 days.
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In Delhi, meanwhile, early signs of a peak in hospitalisations have started to emerge with the number of occupied beds stabilising. On Tuesday, the number of patients hospitalised with Covid dropped for the first time since the start of the Omicron wave -- from 2,784 (the highest so far in the latest wave) on Monday to 2,730 on Tuesday. On Wednesday, this saw a marginal increase to 2,734. And because the city’s peak came a few days after Mumbai’s , this number appears set to improve in the coming days.
To be sure, hospitalisations in the Omicron surge still remained a fraction of what has been seen in previous waves.
Further, neither of the cities ever looked like they were on the cusp of facing a crisis at the hospital level. Despite the rapid rise in daily infections (and even hospitalisations), authorities were able to add hospital beds in order to create a comfortable cushion of available beds.
In Mumbai, on December 30 (the earliest that this data is made available by the BMC) there were 24,195 vacant beds in the city – the lowest this number has touched. In the three weeks since, this has consistently been improving. As on January 19, there are 33,051 beds available for Covid patients in the city – 37% more than the respective figure three weeks ago. In fact, bed availability in the city never dropped below the 25,000-mark.
It is a similar story in Delhi. There were 8,646 beds available in the city on December 30, according to the Delhi government’s health bulletin. In the three weeks since, this number has swelled 49% and stands at 12,869 on January 19.
And even in terms of the proportion of overall bed availability occupied, even as cases picked up in the two cities in the Omicron wave, they always had at least around 80% of beds available at all times. Bed occupancy peaked at 21.4% in Mumbai on January 8 when 7,234 of the 33,803 hospital beds available in the city were occupied. In the 11 days since, this number has now dropped every single day (see chart). In Delhi, the highest proportion of beds occupied was on January 17 when 18% of the city’s 15,505 available beds had patients.
This meant that throughout the surge in cases, the two cities had a large enough safety net in place to deal with hospitalisation rates several times the worst they have faced so far.
“We are in the third week of the third wave, and we had anticipated the trends that we are seeing now,” said Mumbai’s additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani. “We recorded a higher number of cases during the first two weeks. The cases went down in the third week, but we had anticipated that a small number of people who will progress to severe disease will require ICU or ventilator care,” he said.
A senior official of Delhi government’s health department said that while hospitalisations in the city have stabilised over the last four days, it is still too soon to confirm at a downward trend. “The hospital admissions have stabilised but we are yet to see a visible declining trend. However, since the hospitalisations were lower even during peak infection period in Delhi, it is a promising position.”
Experts said that the number of people requiring hospital admission has been consistently low in recent weeks.
“Patients are turning afebrile within a span of 4-5 days, and very few are requiring admissions,” said Dr Sujeet K Rajan, a respiratory medicine specialist from Bombay Hospital. “But some number of sicker patients requiring intensive care have started coming in over the past few days,” he said.
Dr KK Talwar, former head of the Medical Council of India, who was also heading the Punjab government’s expert group on Covid during the second wave of the pandemic, said that Delhi is around two weeks behind Mumbai in its infection trajectory and is likely to follow similar patterns in infection and hospitalisations in the coming days. “Delhi is likely to follow similar patterns as Mumbai, just as Mumbai followed the patterns seen in South Africa. This fits into the clinical pattern of the Omicron spread,” Dr Talwar said. That’s a rapid spike in cases, few hospitalisations, and an equally sharp fall in cases.
(With inputs from Soumya Pillai in Delhi and Jyoti Shelar in Mumbai)