On Sunday, the Centre had to intervene for the second time in less than six months to address the worrying surge in COVID cases in Delhi. The capital has been grappling with a daily average of more than 7,000 cases and 90 deaths for nearly a week. The situation actually began taking a turn for the worse since mid-October, when the city’s caseload exceeded the 4,000 mark. The Delhi government, however, tried to reassure people that matters were under control. It claimed that the increased number of cases were a result of a rise in test capacity and the case fatality rate (CFR) wasn’t high. It also said that the hospitals in the city were well-equipped to deal with an emergency. But the recent surge has belied the government’s claims. Two weeks back, this newspaper reported that the COVID specialty hospitals are running low on beds. Delhi now has only 164 ICU beds vacant. The Delhi government has ascribed the spike to people lowering their guard during the festive season and has also blamed the city’s pollution. While there is some truth to these claims, the Delhi government cannot be absolved of the charge of complacency, especially since it does not seem to have taken adequate note of warnings issued by several agencies.
In October, a report submitted to the Delhi government by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) pointed out that Delhi should be prepared for 15,000 cases daily in winter. The report drafted under the guidance of an expert group headed by NITI Aayog member V K Paul asked the Delhi government to make arrangements for hospitalisation of about one-fifth of these patients with moderate and severe symptoms. In early October, the NCDC also pointed out that Delhi’s CFR was marginally higher than the national average. While the Delhi government did issue occasional messages of caution to people, these, by all accounts, failed to convey the gravity of the situation. A city of pandemic-weary residents needed special information and healthcare drives during the festive season. It seems that the Delhi government did not give due urgency to this task.
The Centre’s interventions include airlifting doctors and paramedical staff from the armed forces, 300 additional ICU beds and additional medical equipment. There are also plans to double the capital’s swab testing capacity — this could take care of a longstanding shortcoming of Delhi’s anti-COVID efforts. But the Delhi government would also do well to draw lessons from the recent emergency — living with the novel coronavirus requires meticulous attention to every warning in the air.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines