Delhi-NCR Sees Big Covid-19 Surge as Capital's Positivity Rate Stands at 3 Times the National Average
A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) collects a swab sample from a policeman amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a testing center in New Delhi. REUTERS
With 15% positivity rate that came down to 12% on Monday owing to reduced testing, Delhi is seeing a massive spurt in Covid-19 cases. The Capital’s positivity rate is three times the national average of around 4.2%. For the last three days now, Delhi has reported more than 7,000 new cases, prompting experts to warn that this has to be nipped in the bud. On Monday, the city reported roughly 5,000 new cases.
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said in a review meeting on Monday that Covid-19 appropriate behaviour is "no rocket science" and that "we all need to be more vigilant for the entire festive season that started with Dussehra and would continue onto Diwali, Chhath Puja, Christmas and then onto Makar Sankranti in the next year. Respiratory virus also spreads rapidly in the winter months”, he said.
The National Centre for Disease Control had prepared a report saying that Delhi would see a spike of about 15,000 new cases in peak winter. The city, unfortunately, is living up to these expectations.
There are multiple factors, says Dr Randeep Guleria, director of Delhi's AIIMS and a leading pulmonologist. "Most importantly human behaviour. There is Covid-19 fatigue in Delhi. In Delhi and other metropolitan cities, if people don't follow social distancing and don't wear masks, then any event can lead to a spread. One person not taking precautions can lead to a super-spreading event. Other factors are also contributing to the increase in cases. One is the weather. We know that respiratory viruses spike in winter months; we have seen a drop in temperature in Delhi. There are higher chances of the virus surviving in outdoor air and people tend to crowd indoors during winters. The third factor is air pollution which is also contributing to the spike," he said.
The Centre too has been concerned about the increasing positivity rate in Delhi. It continues to be among the highest in India. Delhi has reported the highest daily new cases, says the Centre. "There is a growing understanding that if the test positivity rate goes downwards of 3%, it would indicate better control of the pandemic. Contrary to the overall status of India, Delhi continues to touch new highs. This is primarily related to absolute carelessness of the public and other factors like air pollution and cooler climate are only additive. At this rate, by next week, the mortality may go higher due to strained healthcare infrastructure. People have to take the ownership if the government doesn't- it’s totally our war now!" said Dr Bharat Gopal, a leading pulmonologist in the National Capital.
"Many districts in the National Capital region are seeing an increase in daily new cases; Delhi and Gurugram are seeing an increase in deaths. In many of these districts, the testing is lower than what it used to be earlier. Both in Delhi and Gurugram, the test positivity rate is increasing. Pollution is one but not the only factor. This is the festive season. The testing in Delhi right now is less than what it used to be," says Professor Rijo John, a health economist.
Of the 45,903 new Covid-19 cases from 10 states and Union Territories, 79% are from Delhi, with the Capital overtaking Maharashtra and Kerala in terms of the new cases reported. Delhi has a growth rate of 1.6% as opposed to the national average of 0.55%.
"The continuously falling 7-day average daily new cases and deaths at the national level seem to have stopped recently, and this seems to be aided by rising cases in Delhi, Haryana and NCR. Daily new cases increasing in several districts in the National Capital Region NCR, Delhi, Gurugram, Faridabad, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Rohtak, Bhiwani, Jhajjar, Bhagpat etc seeing rising new daily numbers,” explained Professor Rijo John on Twitter.
Haryana was party to the meeting of nine states held on Monday by the Union Health Minister. Faridabad and Gurugram in Haryana reported the highest-ever cases for a day on Monday. They have the highest positivity rate at 13%. At 5% positivity rate, Delhi's suburb positivity rate is 4 times that of UP's average. It was 3% between October 17 and 23.
The weekly average of cases in NCR districts of UP, comprising Gautam Budh Nagar, Baghpat, Meerut and Ghaziabad has gone up to about 28%. For Delhi, the figure is at 32%.
Dr VK Paul, a NITI Aayog Member, said: "The virus does not respect geographies. This is a big urban conglomerate so what is happening is in a continuum. There is no need to differentiate. It is the same ecosystem, same environment and same behaviour. It shows that in this conglomerate, the situation is the same everywhere and the virus is still winning."