From doubling testing capacity in the next 48 hours to a proposal to ensure that private hospitals provide 60 per cent of their Covid beds at low rates, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday spelt out a multipronged strategy for the national capital, which is struggling to cope with the surge in novel coronavirus infections.
In view of reports of shortage of hospital beds, Shah announced after a review meeting that the Centre will immediately provide 500 converted railway coaches to the Delhi government to house Covid-19 patients.
“With this, 8,000 more beds will be available in Delhi and these will be equipped with all facilities,” Shah posted on Twitter. The Home Minister will chair an all-party meeting to review the management of the Covid-19 crisis in Delhi on Monday.
On Friday, the Supreme Court had asked the Delhi government to explain the reduction in testing numbers in recent days. On Sunday, Shah made two specific announcements: Testing will be increased twofold in the next two days, and trebled after six days; and after a few days, in Delhi’s containment zones, testing facilities will be made available at each polling station.
Sunday’s review meeting was attended by Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria.
Shah announced that house-to-house health surveys would be carried out in the containment zones to improve contact mapping, and the report would be available within a week. “For effective monitoring, all residents will be asked to download the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile phones,” Shah said.
A committee led by Dr V K Paul, Member NITI Aayog, will submit a report on Monday on making available 60 per cent of dedicated Covid-19 beds in private hospitals at lower rates, and fixing the cost of testing and treatment.
At a review meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, a detailed discussion was held on the challenges especially in the urban hotspots, the strategy to augment testing, and on the requirement of beds to meet the daily surge of cases.
During the meeting, which was attended by Shah and public health experts, the PM took stock of the situation in Delhi, including projections for the next two months.
The capital was also in focus during the Cabinet Secretary’s meeting with state chief secretaries and health secretaries on Thursday. Projections for June based on available data showed that Delhi may already be facing a shortage of ICU beds, and is hitting critical thresholds with regard to ventilators and isolation beds with oxygen.
Based on current trends, the presentation made to the states projected 91,419 cases in Delhi by June 30. The Cabinet Secretary had flagged possible infrastructure shortages, noting that Delhi had been short of ICU beds since June 3, and would see a shortage of ventilators from June 12 and isolation beds with oxygen from June 25.
Shah also announced on Sunday that the government would set up a committee of senior doctors of AIIMS so that the “best practices in the fight against Corona are communicated to the lowest level”, meaning clinics and minor hospitals in Delhi.
Following Shah’s directions, AIIMS has set up a 24×7 Covid-19 helpline, where callers can take OPD appointments, and talk to volunteers, while doctors can talk to consultants.
The central government would depute five more senior officers to the Delhi government, and would commission services of the Scouts and Guides, NCC, NSS, and health services volunteers, Shah said.
A team of doctors from the health departments of the Governments of India and Delhi, AIIMS, and the three Municipal Corporations of Delhi will visit all Covid-19 hospitals in the capital, and submit a report on the health infrastructure and preparedness.
“India is fighting against corona with full strength. The government is sad about the loss of lives, and sympathetic towards the families that have lost loved ones to the pandemic. The government has decided to release new guidelines for conducting the last rites, which will reduce the waiting period,” Shah tweeted.
Sunday’s review meeting was focussed on the national capital, where the number of cases has risen from 9,333 on May 17 to 38,958 on June 14. The decisions taken at the meeting, however, provide a template for the focus areas when the PM has another round of video conference with the chief ministers early next week.
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