A survival story

NEW DELHI, 15/01/2021. To go with Nikhil M Babu's Story-- A worker seen transporting Covid Vaccines from the district vaccine store in East Delhi for the First phase of Covid Vaccination drive, which is set to begin on Saturday in New Delhi on Friday, January 15, 2021. Photo: MOORTHY RV / The Hindu   | Photo Credit: MOORTHY RV

On Tuesday, it will be a year since the first COVID-19 case was reported in the city and like most cities of the world, Delhi has suffered, resisted and eventually survived the pandemic through grit, determination and planning. Despite mounting casualties at one juncture, the city did not lose its heart but fought hard to counter the pandemic.

From a single case on March 2 to more than 8,500 cases in a day in November and about 200 daily cases now, it was a roller-coaster ride. As many as 10,910 people lost their lives, countless lost jobs, almost every other business sector was hit, chaos and anarchy reigned in the early days of the lockdown. But the city showed its fabled resilience, and life is steadily acquiring normalcy, now that the pandemic is under control, with only 1,335 active cases, as opposed to over 40,000 active cases in November.

Vaccine, the blessing

The vaccine is seen as light at the end of the tunnel and the government has shifted its focus to increase the coverage of vaccination.

Though the situation is currently more or less under control, it was not always like that. There were days when Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was worried and exhorted people to take extreme precautions. He even accepted the government’s shortcomings, as the daily count shot up steeply in the months of June, September, and peaking in November. On November 11, 8,593 cases were reported in 24 hours. Soon after, the number of tests was increased, with the highest recorded on December 17, when 90,354 tests were done in 24 hours.

Early planning

Even before the first case was reported, the government started reserving beds in hospitals for COVID-19 patients and eventually ordered many hospitals to be reserved only for treating the infected.

In the initial months, there were complaints of insufficient PPE kits for healthcare workers, but the situation gradually evened out. In May and June, as cases started to mount, there were numerous complaints about people being forced to hop from one hospital to another in search of beds. Many said they were unable to find a bed, even as beds were available as per official data.

In a video statement on June 27, the Chief Minister had to accept the shortcomings. “In the first week of June, there was a shortage of beds in Delhi and there were fewer tests. Due to shortage of beds, some people did not get beds, and the number of deaths also started to increase,” he said, adding that he used to get calls late in the night about the shortage.

To redress the scenario, the government roped in more private hospitals and even hotels were attached to hospitals to increase the number of beds. But there was a hitch. Many private hospitals started demanding that patients deposit amounts ranging from ₹3 lakh to ₹8 lakh for admission. Apart from the deposits, there were numerous cases of “exorbitant” rates charged from COVID-19 patients.

In early June, the Chief Minister asserted that the government won’t allow “black marketing” of beds in private hospitals. Then on June 20, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), headed by the Lt. Governor, accepted recommendations of a committee for fixing rates for COVID-19-related treatment in private hospitals.

In contrast to Delhi, the municipal corporation of Mumbai had capped the prices of isolation beds for COVID-19 patients in private hospitals in the city at ₹4,000 a day as early as mid-March.

Controversies galore

There was no dearth of controversies either. On June 7, Mr. Kejriwal said government and private hospitals will be reserved for people of Delhi and Central government hospitals will be for anyone from across the country.

The decision came under flak, and on June 8, Lt. Governor Anil Baijal overruled the decision. This led to a confrontation between the Delhi and Central governments.

Following this, on June 14, Union Home Minister Amit Shah reviewed the condition of Delhi in a meeting with the L-G and the Chief Minister. Since then, the Central government has intervened in the COVID-19 management of the city. Both worked hand in hand and the situation improved.

Within days, based on the Central government directions, the price of COVID-19 testing in Delhi was capped at ₹2,400.

Gradual control

When asked about the toughest time during the pandemic, a health department official said: “Though we had the highest number of cases during the second surge in November, by then we were prepared. The systems were in place. But during the first surge in May - June, people were actually finding it difficult to find beds. It was the time when officials were leaving offices at 10 and 11 in the night. That was the toughest time.”

Delhi was one of the worst affected cities of the country. The State government reasoned that the large number of flights, which brought back people stuck in other countries, landed at the Delhi airport and this was the reason behind the high number of cases.

Even three Ministers of the AAP government — Satyendar Jain, Manish Sisodia, and Gopal Rai — tested positive and were admitted to a private hospital at some point of their treatment. “Despite various challenges, Delhi fought the virus and brought down both the positive as well as the death rates,” the Health Minister’s office said in response to a query by The Hindu. “The Delhi government did not step back, we proactively worked and adapted ourselves to the situation and came up with several initiatives that brought the cases down and our initiatives have been copied and followed widely by the entire nation and world,” it added.

The descent

After the peak in November, new cases decreased, despite an increase in testing. The daily new cases have been less than 1,000 for two months and have been staying below 200 cases for almost a month. But there has been a small rise in the past few days with four consecutive days recording 200 or more cases last week.

“There is nothing to worry about. Fluctuations of minor level will happen and the disease won’t completely disappear like that. The virus will infect people, who have not been infected, till people have antibodies,” said Dr. Jugal Kishore, head of the community medicine department at Safdarjung Hospital, adding that the current increase has to be observed over a longer period of time to draw any conclusions.

The Delhi government official said that the government was yet to find out any particular reason for the current slight increase in cases, but it was looking for possible reasons. The fight, meanwhile, is unceasing.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 1:54:21 AM |

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