The Delhi government has decided to gradually decrease the number of ICU beds reserved for Covid-19 patients from 80% to 60% at 33 private hospitals, following the recommendations of its four-member expert committee. This frees up 20% beds for non-Covid patients — a major demand of doctors in several hospitals. The decision will be reviewed again on January 5.
The order issued Sunday by Amit Singla, secretary, health and family, Delhi government, is based on the opinion shared by AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria and NITI Aayog member Dr V K Paul as well as the committee. The country’s top experts have taken into account several factors — the new UK strain, increasing severity of Covid-19 cases and the upcoming New Year celebrations — to support the panel’s decision recommending graded reduction of ICU beds.
“The new UK strain of Covid-19 is a new development witnessed… very recently. Further, till now, about 19 UK returnees have tested positive and their genome sequencing is underway at the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). In view of the unfolding situation of the new strain, we are of a view that we should take abundant precautions and abrupt de-escalation is not advisable in this juncture,” the experts stated in their report.
Why the govt is cautious
While private hospitals have pointed out several times that earmarking a large chunk of ICU beds for Covid patients is affecting treatment of non-Covid patients, the government is being cautious when it comes to reducing the number of these beds suddenly as cases might spike after Christmas and New Year celebrations. Emergence of the new Covid strain in UK, which is more infectious, has also made the government more wary.
“The upcoming celebrations shall entail gatherings which may trigger super spreader events. We have also noticed that trends have been observed with regard to the increased severity of Covid-19 cases in recent days,” they further explained.
The experts said they can review the situation again on January 15 to understand the impact of the UK strain and overall impact of the New Year celebrations. The report stated that a total of 20,622 people have arrived in Delhi from the UK between November 25 and December 23.
Dr Paul and Dr Guleria, in their report, also took note of the declining trend of Covid-19 infections in Delhi. “We are also cognizant of the fact that the total Covid ICU bed occupancy has dropped to about 23% as on December 26. We have also noted that the occupancy of the said 33 private hospitals is about 34%, which is higher than the general Covid ICU beds occupancy of other hospitals,” it said.
On Sunday, the capital reported 757 new cases and 16 deaths, taking the total number of cases to 6,22,851 and the death toll to 10,453. The daily positivity rate was recorded at 1.01% based on 75,210 tests carried out in the last 24 hours. There are 1,525 ICU beds for Covid patients, out of which 953 (62%) are vacant, as per the Delhi government’s Corona app.
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