Airlift additional doctors and paramedical staff from the Central Armed Police Forces, organise additional medical equipment to tackle severe cases, double the RT-PCR testing capacity, provide 300 dedicated ICU beds.
These are among the key directions given by Union Home Minister Amit Shah Sunday to combat the Covid crisis in Delhi, where a surge in cases has placed immense strain on the healthcare system with intensive care facilities filling up fast.
Over the last week, Delhi contributed the maximum number of new cases in the country, breaching the 8,500-mark for a day and recording over 51,000 cases in the last week. Since Friday, the capital has recorded more than 90 deaths per day. The day’s bulletin released by the Delhi government in the afternoon recorded 3,235 cases and 95 deaths with a positivity rate of 15.33 per cent.
During a review meeting, which was also attended by Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, Lt Governor Anil Baijal and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Shah directed the implementation of a multi-pronged strategy focusing on critical areas that include early treatment, and strict enforcement of containment and surveillance measures.
“In view of the shortage of medical staff in Delhi, the Government has decided to provide additional doctors and paramedical staff from the CAPFs and they would soon be airlifted to Delhi,” Shah said.
Lack of beds led to alarm
The Centre's intervention was prompted by a sharp surge in cases and the dip in availability of Covid beds in the national capital, especially in intensive care facilities. Private hospitals were the first to raise the alarm over paucity of Covid ICU beds early this month. Government hospitals too are now running short. In all, Delhi has just 164 Covid ICU beds vacant.
“The hospital capacity in Delhi and the availability of other medical infrastructure should be ramped up considerably. In this direction, 250-300 additional beds with ICUs would be added to the existing medical facility of DRDO at Dhaula Kuan. The 10,000-bed Covid Care Centre established at Chattarpur will also be strengthened, with a view to enhancing the availability of beds with oxygen capacity,” Shah said.
Following the meeting, Kejriwal said that tests will go up from an average of around 60,000 per day to 1-1.25 lakh soon. “Delhi government facilities are working at their maximum capacity right now. Therefore, ICMR has assured they will help us increase testing,” he said.
Delhi has been conducting around 16,000 RT-PCR tests and around 44,000 Rapid Antigen Tests per day for the past few days. Kejriwal said the main issue was the availability of Covid beds — only 164 out of 1,341 ICU beds, and 261 out of 2,183 non-ICU beds are vacant.
Asked if any restrictions on movement will be reintroduced in the capital, the Chief Minister said: “I think a meeting to discuss this is scheduled in the Ministry tomorrow. This was not discussed today.”
During the meeting, the Home Minister directed that select hospitals of the municipal corporations should be earmarked for patients with milder symptoms. And, he said, dedicated multi-departmental teams should visit all private hospitals to check the availability of Covid infrastructure, including admission status, and ensure that the availability status is displayed prominently.
The Centre has also directed that RT-PCR testing be doubled by optimally utilising lab capacity and deploying mobile vans where there is a higher risk of spread. To bring the rising positivity rate under control, the testing capacity will be enhanced by temporarily shifting labs from other parts of the country where they are unutilised, and by using spare capacity in neighboring regions.
On a containment strategy, the entire set of measures instituted — zones, contact tracing, and quarantining and screening — will be reviewed continuously.
Shah also stressed on the need to track patients in home isolation, and ensure that they are shifted to hospitals as soon as medical attention is necessary. District-level officials will be personally held responsible for compliance, and any slip-up would be viewed seriously, Shah said during the meeting.
The Home Minister also directed the Health Ministry to provide an adequate number of BIPAP machines and high-flow nasal cannulas to the Delhi government within 48 hours. The national clinical management protocol has recommended high-flow nasal cannula oxygenation in cases where patients with respiratory distress do not respond to standard therapy.
For severe cases, the Health Ministry has been directed to issue a standard protocol for plasma therapy for which a report will be submitted by a high-level committee comprising NITI Aayog member Dr V K Paul, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria and ICMR D-G Dr Balram Bhargava.
This is not the first time that the Home Minister has stepped in to issue directions on combating the Covid situation in Delhi. In June, when the capital witnessed a surge, Shah held detailed discussions with specialists to chalk out a strategy that included tripling the testing capacity and providing 60 per cent of private hospital beds at low rates.
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