Amid a row over its decision, since overruled by the Centre, to reserve beds in coronavirus hospital facilities in the Capital for Delhi residents, the Kejriwal government Tuesday projected an exponential growth in the city’s numbers.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the number of cases will soar to 5.5 lakh by the end of July, with around 80,000 hospital beds needed, even as the government warned that in around half the current cases, the source of infection is unknown.
Delhi’s Covid dashboard shows it has 8,975 beds across state-run, Centre-run and private hospitals, of which 4,840 are currently occupied. Another 11,259 patients are in home isolation.
On April 7, the Delhi government had said it was ready to handle 30,000 active cases. On May 18, when Delhi started reopening after the third phase of the lockdown, Chief Minister Arvid Kejriwal had said the Capital was ready for up to 50,000 active cases.
Kejriwal, who has fever and sore threat, was tested for coronavirus on Tuesday, and his result was negative.
The new coronavirus projections were made by Sisodia and Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain, who also apprised Lt Governor Anil Baijal of the situation during a meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) Tuesday. The ministers said their request to reinstate the Delhi government’s decision to reserve beds for Delhi residents was turned down by the L-G again at the meeting.
Sisodia said “there was consensus within the government” that considering the current doubling rate of 12.6 days, Delhi would have 5.5 lakh cases by July 31, and need 80,000 hospital beds. He added that at the DDMA meeting, “We asked the L-G about his predictions regarding cases in the coming days and how many might come from outside, but he had no answer. We also asked that if people from outside come to Delhi, how many beds we might need, and he had no answer to that as well.”
Reacting to the statements, Baijal’s office said he made it clear at the meeting that the proposal to reserve beds was struck down as it “violated constitutional right to equality and right to life, which include the right to health”. “It is the responsibility of the State to provide universal healthcare to all patients coming to hospitals in accordance with constitutional provisions. This was explained to the Deputy CM. It is unfortunate that any responsible government should attempt to discriminate amongst patients on grounds of residence.”
Separately, Jain told reporters that the source of infection in around 50% of Delhi’s current cases is unknown. However, he underlined that the call on whether Delhi had entered the community transmission phase lies with the Union government.
Few hours after Jain’s statement, Sisodia said officials of the Union government who attended the DDMA meeting had ruled out community transmission.
Delhi has seen 29,943 cases of coronavirus so far, of which 17,712 are currently active. “We presented the data of our prediction where we observed that by June 15, there will be 44,000 Covid-19 cases and 6,600 beds will be required. By June 30, we will reach one lakh cases and 15,000 beds will be required. By July 15, we will have 2.25 lakh cases for which 33,000 beds will be required. By July 31, 5.5 lakh cases are expected and 80,000 beds will be required,” Sisodia told reporters after the DDMA meeting.
Before the meeting, Jain said the government would raise the matter of potential community transmission with L-G Baijal. “AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria has said (there has been community transmission) but the Centre has not yet confirmed it… What is community spread? It is a situation where the source of infection is not known. There are many cases where sources are not known. But we can say that officially only if the Centre admits… In around half the cases the source of infection is unknown,” the Health Minister said.
On the factors behind the surge in Delhi, Jain listed “the Centre not agreeing to our request to stop landing of flights initially”. “People from other states were also kept here.”
Over the issue of reserving beds for Delhi residents too, the AAP government has blamed the Centre, accusing it of forcing the L-G’s hand. Apart from reversing the Kejriwal government’s decision to reserve beds in state government-run hospitals and private hospitals for residents of Delhi, Baijal had overturned its decision to not test asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases.
Sisodia said on Tuesday, “The decision to open hospitals for all will create a lot of obstacles for the people of Delhi. If people from other states start coming to Delhi and the available beds get filled up in two, four or 10 days, who will take the responsibility? However, we will try our best to strengthen the health infrastructure in a way where we can provide good treatment to the people of Delhi and to those coming from all over India.”
Jain claimed that in Delhi’s private hospitals, “at any given time”, nearly 50% patients are from other states, while the figure is as high as 70% for Delhi government hospitals. During the lockdown, when cross-border movement was restricted, the figure for both private and government facilities was around 10%, he said.
In its statement, the L-G’s office said, “Rather than discriminating between patients, the goal of the government should be to plan and prepare for adequate infrastructure. We are all Indians and Delhi belongs to all… In Tuesday’s DDMA meeting, potential use of spaces like Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Thyagaraj Stadium, JLN Stadium, Pragati Maidan, to make large makeshift medical facilities, was discussed.”
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