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Glimmer in Delhi as recoveries trend up, next weeks key

If the trend holds for at least two consecutive weeks, which is the normal recovery time for an infected person, it could be an indication that the disease is reaching its peak in the National Capital and that a decline is around the corner, according to top experts and doctors.

Written by Astha Saxena , Amitabh Sinha | New Delhi, Pune | Published: July 19, 2020 4:39:14 am
coronavirus recovery, covid panel, positive cases, Delhi news, Indian express news Speaking to The Sunday Express, members of the state government’s Covid panel said that the next few weeks will be crucial in determining whether Delhi has actually crossed the peak. (Representational)

For 17 of the last 20 days, including 11 in a row now, the number of people recovering from Covid in Delhi has remained higher than newly detected infections — no other state has come close, yet.

If the trend holds for at least two consecutive weeks, which is the normal recovery time for an infected person, it could be an indication that the disease is reaching its peak in the National Capital and that a decline is around the corner, according to top experts and doctors.

But there are important caveats.

Speaking to The Sunday Express, members of the state government’s Covid panel said that the next few weeks will be crucial in determining whether Delhi has actually crossed the peak.

“The numbers are going down. The number of positive cases per day, recorded at around 4,000, has now fallen to 2,000 or less. The positivity rate has come down from 30% to 8%. At a time, there were 6,200 patients admitted but now the number is less than 4,000. So, all these parameters are self-explanatory and it looks like we have reached the peak. We are in a comfortable situation, but we need to stay cautious,” said Dr Arun Gupta, president of the Delhi Medical Council, who is on the five-member Covid committee formed by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

But the committee’s chief, Dr Mahesh Verma, who is the vice-chancellor of IP University, cautioned that “there is a possibility that many mild cases are not being reported”. “For the last two weeks, we are witnessing a decline in cases, and if this continues for two-three weeks, we can certainly say we are in a recession stage. We also need to wait, and watch the impact of the monsoon. The SARS- COV-2 is an unpredictable virus and we need to watch for a couple more weeks till we can positively say that the peak has passed in Delhi,” Verma said.

Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, group medical director of Max Hospital, said: “The peak is over in Delhi and we are in the plateau phase, which generally lasts three-four weeks. During this period, we will see a reduction in number of patients, percentage of patients turning positive and, most important, number of daily deaths. The number of daily deaths has come down significantly. If the trend remains for two more weeks, then we are clearly out of the risk.”

Dr R K Gupta, former president of the Delhi Medical Association and another panel member, said that “looking at the current trend, it looks like the peak may have passed”.

“The committee had predicted that Delhi will have 5.5 lakh cases by July 31, with cases doubling in almost 13 days. The numbers at present have not even reached 1.5 lakh. But it is extremely important for people to follow hand hygiene, covering of face and social distancing,” Gupta said.

But one key reason why scientists and health experts still remain cautious and prefer to observe the trend for longer is the fact that there are inconsistencies in compiling and reporting of data.

There are time lags at each stage. Everyone is not tested in the initial days of infection, and the arrival of test results takes its own time. The compilation of data and its reporting also has a lag.

As a result, very few cases that get reported on any day are from that day itself, and is often a mixture of what has emerged over the past several days. For example, on June 20, Delhi reported as many as 7,725 recoveries, more than double on any other day. However, experts say, all those people were unlikely to have recovered that day, and the figure is likely to have included unreported recoveries from previous days.

As such, the daily data released publicly by state governments can be used to pick up trends. But it cannot be relied upon entirely to draw definitive conclusions for which a more rigorous look, including at data not publicly released, is required.

Nevertheless, Delhi has seen a remarkable turnaround in the last three weeks. Its growth rate (seven-day compounded daily growth rate) has dropped to 1.38 per cent, the lowest in the country right now.

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