Delhi has recorded the highest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases in nearly 70 days, which experts are attributing to reopening of economy, ramped-up testing, patients from outside the city coming here for treatment and violation of safety norms by many people in public. The national capital has reported coronavirus cases in excess of 2,000 for four consecutive days since September 1. On Friday, the daily cases count stood at 2,914.
When asked about the spiralling cases and chances of another lockdown, a senior official of the Delhi government on Friday said the cases have shown an increase as testing has been ramped up. It is not that cases are rising alarmingly, and hence, there is no chance of going back to lockdown, he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday said the recent surge in cases in the city is attributable to doubling of testing, as he sought to assure people that the situation is completely under control and there is no need to panic.
Medical experts have flagged the surge in cases earlier too and warned people about the perils of not wearing masks in public and violating social distancing norms, but underlined that an economy cannot be kept locked forever.
"Yes, a large section of people in Delhi have become complacent that everything is okay now, as economy has reopened and even metro services will resume next week. But, they must understand, this ease in lockdown was given for economic sustenance of the country and not for people to roam around as they were doing it before," Director, Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital (RGSSH), B L Sherwal told PTI.
However, he said, more cases being reported now should not be a worry at the moment, as earlier in May and June such cases were coming in lockdown, and now it is similar without a lockdown.
"Hopefully, in few days, after marked rise in cases due to multiple reasons, including opening of economy leading to greater human interaction, increased testing in past one week, the figures, I reckon will stabilise," Sherwal said. RGSSH is one of the major dedicated COVID-19 facilities run by the Delhi government.
Delhi recording 2,914 fresh COVID-19 cases on Friday was the city's highest single-day spike in 69 days, as the tally mounted to over 1.85 lakh, while the death toll jumped to 4,513. The number of Rapid Antigen Tests conducted on Friday stood at 27,731, while the RT-PCR, CBNAAT and True NAAT tests figures were 8,488 in all adding to 36,219, according to the Friday bulletin issued by the Delhi health department.
Amid sudden spurt in cases in the last few days in Delhi, medical experts have also warned that many people not wearing masks and violating social distancing norms have contributed to it, and cautioned to still treat the situation as a "health emergency".
From doctors at leading hospitals to senior officials of nationwide testing laboratories, all concurred that a "sudden degree of complacency" has crept in the psyche of the masses, especially the youth, who feel that since the lockdown has eased, "all is back to normal".
"It is very irresponsible on people's part to go out and enjoy, as if everything is normal. They are either not wearing a mask or slid it on their chin, as if it is a funny thing to do. Such people should be told publicly to adhere to safety norms. They are putting themselves, their family members and others at risk," said Rajesh Rautela, Medical Superintendent of GTB Hospital in east Delhi.
Sandeep Budhiraja, Group Medical Director, Max Healthcare, also cautioned the youth to not get swayed in by the lure of social media, as many of those are putting out pictures of going out and socialising in cafes and restaurants, with or without wearing masks.
This is such a dangerous trend and youth immediately copy behaviour of fellow youth, especially if they are social media influencers, he warned. "Yes, social media does affect the psyche and behaviour of people. So, people must behave responsibly," he said, and cautioned that "a young person may get infected and recover from COVID-19, but if they unnecessarily go out and socialise, they run the risk of spreading it to older people around them, including their parents and grandparents".
The Delhi Metro all set to resume operations from September 7 in a graded manner, has put all safety and social distancing norms in place to make the travel safer for commuters. However, it appealed to people to use the services only if it is urgent, and not otherwise.
Medical experts in Delhi also flagged the spread of COVID-19 cases to semi-urban areas and villages on the outskirts of the national capital. "A pandemic that has originated from outside generally follows this trajectory, from foreign countries to another country, then to bigger cities and from urban areas to rural areas," Sherwal of RGSSH said.
Arvind Lal, Executive Chairman, Dr Lal PathLabs cautioned that people should not go out unless extremely necessary, as "they may catch infection from asymptomatic ones".
"We are still living in a health emergency, we should not forget that," Lal said. Last week, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said the increase in number of COVID-19 cases in Delhi was due to various reasons, including outside patients coming to Delhi for treatment, and increased scale of testing.