Home ministry steps in again as cases, deaths rise in Delhi
The increasing number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases and related deaths in the national capital has led the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to start an “active engagement” with the Delhi government and Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) Anil Baijal again.
Delhi reported 2,737 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, while around 33,000 tests were conducted.
This was the highest single-day spike in Covid-19 cases since June-end, the data from the Delhi government’s daily health bulletin showed.
Delhi also recorded 19 fresh deaths due to the contagion, as the toll tally in the national capital rose to 4,500.
The city was recording Covid-19-related deaths in single digits until the third week of August. But the fatality count went up to 22 a day on three occasions in the past two weeks.
However, the case fatality ratio (CFR) – the number of deaths who tested Covid-19 positive – has been on the decline in the national capital. At present, Delhi’s CFR is 2.47%, but still much higher than the national average of 1.78%.
“The number of active cases and deaths in Delhi was on a decline, but in the last few weeks both the parametres have gone up. Now, the MHA has started an active engagement with the Delhi government,” said Rajesh Bhushan, secretary, ministry of health and family welfare (MoH&FW).
He said that Delhi government has been given guidelines to help control the number of Covid-19 cases and related deaths. “We are engaging with the Delhi government under the supervision of the MHA. We also held a meeting with the L-G recently, where the representatives from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), MoH&FW, and NITI Aayog were also present. We have given them some guidelines. If the guidelines are effectively followed, then the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths can be controlled,” said Bhushan.
Bhushan said that Delhi was one of the five states that accounted for 70% of the total deaths in the country.
Andhra Pradesh (AP), Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu (TN) are the other worst-hit states as far as the viral outbreak is concerned, he added.
Bhsuhan pointed out that Delhi and Karnataka are the two among the five worst-hit states that have reported an uptick in the CFR in the past three weeks.
The Delhi government authorities declined to comment.
Delhi has ramped up its daily tests over the past two days in line with the Central government’s directive. The move has helped lower the positivity rate – the number of Covid-19 tests that show positive among the total swab samples tested – to 8.34% until Thursday.
While the seven-day average positivity rate over the last week was 9.01%.
Bhushan has also urged the states to conduct more real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.
“There are states, where the optimal capacity of RT-PCR tests, of late, are not being utilised. We have drawn the attention of those states to the fact that they do have an installed capacity of conducting a particular number of RT-PCR tests, and they are doing less than their capacity. They need to scale up their RT-PCR tests,” said the secretary.
“There is no uniform picture across the country, when it comes to RT-PCR and rapid antigen detection (RAD) tests. For instance, TN leads the pack as far as RT-PCR tests are concerned at over 90%. There are other states where the RT-PCR, TruNat (used for detection of tuberculosis), and CBNAAT (cartridge based nucleic acid amplification test) testing capacities are limited. ICMR has laid down guidelines that RAD tests are ideal for screening in densely populated areas, containment and buffer zones. So why not use them?” he asked.
An expert has a different take on the nation-wide testing pattern.
“Testing is going up in Delhi. If we test more, we are likely to have more new Covid-19 cases. However, the positivity rate should remain the same. Since, the positivity rate has also gone up, it implies that the transmission of the infection has risen again amid further easing of lockdown restrictions. Hence, there is a need to conduct more RT-PCR tests. But RAD tests cannot be used for large scale diagnosis. If a person gets a false positive report, he may think that he has not been infected and may end up spreading the SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease, among others,” said Dr Lalit Kant, a former head of the department of epidemiology and infectious diseases at ICMR.