Home Ministry Steps in as Delhi Sees Another Massive Surge in Coronavirus Cases
Passengers wearing protective face masks stand in a queue on a platform to get tested for the coronavirus disease, at a railway station, in New Delh. (Reuters)
A high-level meeting involving Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and other senior officials was held on Monday to review the coronavirus pandemic crisis in the national capital as the number of cases has seen a massive surge over the last few days.
As many as 34,173 active cases were reported in Delhi as on Sunday, while the death toll stood at 6,562. "There is no doubt that there is a fresh spike in cases in Delhi. If we look for the trends of the last few months, this stands out as another peak -- the third one. We are seeing increase in daily new cases as well as rise in positivity rate. It is very likely that this peak is occurring due to a combination of factors such as increased economic activities, festival rush in markets, fall in temperature and rise in air pollution.
“We are seeing a lot of people on the streets and many of them are meeting old friends. And, we have learnt that each of these factors can contribute to an increase in the COVID-19 tally," said Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, a public policy and health systems expert.
Dr Lahariya is the lead co-author of an upcoming book titled ‘Till We Win: India’s fight against Covid- 19 pandemic’.
Experts said the rise in cases is due to activities of one or two days. It usually happens due cumulative sustained increase in transmission. "If Covid-appropriate behaviour is not followed, there is an actual risk of even higher number of cases as estimated by an expert group," said Dr Lahariya.
An estimate from the National Centre for Disease Control had suggested that if caution is thrown to the wind, Delhi could see a spike of up to 15,000 cases.
The government has said that Delhi among other Union territories is showing no improvement. "States like Kerala, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi are not showing an improvement to the level we were expecting. Fifty-eight percent of new deaths are reported from five states and Union territories (Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka)" Bhushan has said.
The Delhi government has said there is aggressive contact tracing and increase in testing, and hence, the spike.
However, experts have countered this, saying daily new cases in Delhi have spiked this time despite a reduction in tests. “The seven-day average testing has decreased from approximately 60,000 tests in September to 51,500 now, a decline of 14%," said health economist Professor Rijo John.
He said the wave in Delhi has always been an outcome of testing, but now we are seeing a "rise in cases in spite of drop in testing."
Delhi's positivity rate is also at a high of 10% now as opposed to 5% in early October. In the last 24 hours, the positivity rate has increased to 12.69%.