Delhi’s sharply rising COVID-19 infection curve raises questions about the containment measures taken by the city’s AAP government during and after the relaxation of the lockdown. Now the Centre has lent its weight to the Arvind Kejriwal government. In a series of directives on Sunday, it has asked the Delhi government to revise its strategy to fight the coronavirus. Delhi has been asked to redraw its 242 containment zones, enumerate all households outside these zones and associate every district in the city with a hospital. The Centre has also asked the Delhi government to send a detailed report on every COVID death in the city — this must include when the patient was brought to the hospital, and from where. Such a measure had arguably become necessary in light of reports that the Delhi government’s COVID toll figures are not tallying with those of the city’s hospitals and municipalities.
With nearly 60,000 cases, Delhi is poised to overtake Mumbai as the city with the highest caseload. Maharashtra’s capital has about 67,000 cases but the growth rate of the infection has come down appreciably in the city since last week, when it added 8,000 cases. Delhi, in contrast, added 18,000 cases last week. CM Kejriwal has maintained that the death rate is the key metric in the battle against the pandemic — but even on that yardstick, Delhi’s figures are worrying. At 3.65 per cent, Delhi’s death rate is above the national average of 3.4 per cent. The city has lost in excess of 2,000 lives to the virus. With the Delhi government projecting 5.5 lakh COVID cases in the city by the end of July, the national capital could be staring at a steepening toll, if urgent measures are not taken.
Sunday’s directives were preceded by an order by Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal mandating five-day institutional quarantine for all those who have tested COVID-positive. The Delhi government was right to push back and get it revoked. L-G Baijal has now asked all coronavirus positive patients to report to a COVID-care centre, where their suitability for home isolation will be assessed. Reiterated in the Centre’s directive, this requirement could place an additional burden on the patients. Already, there are reports of asymptomatic carriers of the virus being reluctant to visit the COVID care centres. As it redrafts its strategy, the Delhi government shouldn’t do anything that further inconveniences patients. Its decision to provide oximeters to monitor the oxygen saturation levels of patients under home isolation is a welcome step. The national capital could also follow the example of Kerala and Karnataka, which have involved the community in tracing the contacts of COVID positive patients. The Centre has assured the Delhi government technical help in redrawing the containment zones. It should continue to play the role of a guiding force, not do anything that could be construed as power play in a time of crisis. In the coming days and weeks, the two governments will need to work in unison — they will be watched for how well they can do so.
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