As the Delhi government steps up its efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, officials in the health department are struggling to find the source of transmission of 191 of the total 1,707 cases reported until Friday.
According to official data, of the total cases, 1,080 are linked to the Nizamuddin Markaz event, followed by 353 cases of local transmission, which implies contact with someone who has tested positive. There are 83 cases of people with a travel history.
But it is the remaining 191, where the source of transmission is yet to be identified, that has emerged as a worry.
According to sources, the 191 have so far been unable to definitively tell health officials where they contracted the virus from. District surveillance officers are meanwhile keeping a close watch by calling them regularly and checking if any of their contacts have developed symptoms of COVID-19.
“Though the number is not huge, we have to track them on a regular basis. We suspect some of these people are not willing to share complete details or have forgotten the places they visited in the last two weeks,” said a senior health officer closely monitoring the cases.
On Friday, 56 more cases were added to the ‘under investigation’ category.
“For a city like Delhi which has a massive population, this number does not suggest community transmission. During every pandemic, there are some cases that are left untraced. But we are trying our best to track down the source of transmission. These people are contacted by our team every day to find out if there is any change in their answers,” said another official.
Experts feel such cases should be traced more rigorously. Dr S K Sarin, who is heading the five-member COVID-19 panel formed by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, said: “This number is very important because while all attempts are being made to stop the spread, many people get infected without their knowledge. They don’t know if they are sitting with someone who is asymptomatic but ends up testing positive for COVID-19 later. About 30% of the positive cases are totally asymptomatic. The way to get rid of the pandemic is when herd immunity improves. We haven’t been able to trace the source for 190 such patients… there may be many more such patients that are yet to be traced.”
However, healthcare workers said several patients fail to provide correct details to the hospital administration, which leads to a gap in contact tracing.
“In Delhi, there are several patients from other states and errors creep in while recording and maintaining their details. The number (of cases under investigation) is not alarming but definitely needs to be tracked. Even during the swine flu outbreak, there were cases like these. This is a lacuna between the hospital administration and the patient, which somehow weakens our health system,” said Dr Jugal Kishore, director, head of the department of community medicine, Vardhman Mahavir Medical College and Safdarjung Hospital.