India reported 16,000 new coronavirus cases yesterday, its highest daily increase since the outbreak began, and the government called in armed police to manage new treatment centres with thousands of additional hospital beds in New Delhi.
At more than 456,000 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, India is the fourth worst-hit country in the world, behind the United States, Brazil and Russia.
Cases are expected to keep rising as state governments ease restrictions in place since lockdown was first imposed in late March.
New Delhi, the sprawling capital of more than 20mn people, also recorded its highest single-day increase yesterday, with more than 3,900 cases.
Local government data showed that of the roughly 13,400 beds allocated to Covid-19 patients in the city, around 6,200 were occupied.
The federal home ministry said the city would have around 20,000 additional beds available by next week at temporary facilities run by army doctors and nurses.
These include a 10,000 bed facility hosted at a religious centre run by Radha Soami sect in Delhi and railway coaches turned into wards.
“Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel have been detailed for providing medical care and attention to Covid-19 patients housed in railway coaches in Delhi,” Home Minister Amit Shah said.
The ITBP is an armed constabulary that largely guards the India-China border.
The city government estimates it will have 550,000 Covid-19 cases by the end of July, and will require 150,000 beds by then.
Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that a new federal government order to take every positive patient to an assessment centre as opposed to evaluating them at home was stretching already limited resources.
“Our ambulance system, our medical system is under pressure now. Today, we are having to take patients in buses,” Sisodia said, adding that he had written to the federal home ministry.
“This (rule) is creating chaos in New Delhi.”
“This is not a fight between Amit Shah and (Chief Minister Arvind) Kejriwal’s model,” Sisodia said, adding that a system in which people do not face any issue “should rather be implemented”.
Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal last week issued an order making it compulsory for new patients to visit care centres for clinical assessment to ascertain whether they should be kept in home isolation or be hospitalised.
Sisodia asked Baijal to withdraw the order and reinstate the earlier procedure in which a medical team visits the house of the infected patients to assess his health condition.
The Delhi government announced yesterday a health survey of every house.
Kejriwal said the virus did not seem as virulent in Delhi and most people were recovering.
But given the exponential rise in numbers he said surveillance and testing was being boosted and hospital beds and Covid-19 care facilities added as part of a new action plan.
“At the moment there are sufficient beds...but one cannot say how it will be in the future,” Kejriwal said at a briefing.
However, experts said there was a glimmer of hope as the active cases have declined in the week June 17-23 and nearly 62% of all recoveries have been reported in the last 10 days.
This data indicates that despite daily surge in cases - after an increase in testing to nearly 17,000 samples a day - the incremental growth in recoveries and decline in active cases are keeping Delhi on course in its fight against Covid-19.
But the experts said the pandemic was far from over and people should not be complacent in their response to the viral infection.
Both financial capital Mumbai and New Delhi have turned out to be epicentres of the pandemic and local media has reported of shortcomings in health care facilities including beds and ventilators.
The embassies of Ireland and Germany have advised their citizens that access to medical facilities commonly used by the international community may become increasingly difficult given the upward trend in Covid-19 cases in Indian cities.
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