NEW DELHI: With Covid-19 cases rising rapidly in Delhi, the Centre has asked the AAP government to immediately ramp up testing, coupled with aggressive surveillance, contact tracing and stringent containment and perimeter control of hotspots after a review of the situation by health minister Harsh Vardhan. The Centre’s intervention comes a day after the Delhi government narrowed the testing pool by changing the criteria.
Vardhan said the situation in Delhi was “worrisome” as testing remained very low despite a high positivity rate of 25.7% (cases confirmed per 100 tests) last week and several districts of the capital reporting figures above 38%. “Rising cases, high positivity rate and low testing levels in many districts are worrisome,” Vardhan said during the review with senior Delhi government officials through video-conferencing.
Sources said the Centre is concerned over reports of the state government not being able to coordinate with hospitals, both central and state-run, resulting in disputes over medical bulletins, patients having problems in admissions and inadequate information about bed availability. The overall rate of new infections and deaths in the past 7-10 days has been a serious cause of concern.
According to health ministry data, Delhi had reported 606 deaths due to Covid-19 and 23,645 cases till 8am on Thursday.
“This is a collective battle, and we are here to support Delhi in its efforts,” Vardhan said. Officials highlighted that the stigma associated with Covid-19 stopped people from reporting symptoms or cases and added that complacency was a major factor contributing to a surge in cases.
The review took note of a huge disparity in testing rates in different districts in Delhi. While the average testing per million population in Delhi was 2,018, it was much lower than the average in some districts. For instance, the north-east district reported 517 tests per million population, whereas in south-east, 506 tests were conducted per million. These disparities raised the possibility that cases were not being detected in time.
Vardhan also discussed the high rate of infection among healthcare workers, indicating issues relating to prevention control practices in healthcare settings, and said this needed to be attended to on a priority. Among states, the growth rate of positive cases in Delhi has been a cause for concern.
The Centre underscored the immediate need to scale up testing with health infrastructure enhancements along with better clinical management of Covid-19 cases for effective case management and reduction of fatality rate.
The meeting was attended by Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal and health minister Satyendar Jain, along with district magistrates and municipal corporation officials. Vardhan stressed on the need to increase bed availability and avoid unnecessary delays in admission of cases.
“As a significant proportion are in home isolation, all efforts for a timely response in terms of testing, triaging and shifting of patients to the required level of a dedicated Covid-19 facility is important to avoid mortality,” he said.
After a detailed discussion with district magistrates, commissioners and mayors of Delhi, Vardhan said while some issues such as density of population in many containment zones did pose a serious challenge, it was important to pool resources and experiences for convergent action.
It was emphasised that steps in adherence with the protocols and guidelines issued by the Centre from time to time should be taken for reduction in case fatality rate and improved containment measures.
Vardhan also stressed on the need for enhanced surveillance of ILI and SARI cases. The Centre asked the Delhi government to set up fever clinics and flu corners in all healthcare settings across the capital along with focus on contact tracing and surveillance.