Delhi govt's alarm bell: 550,000 Covid cases by July-end, says Deputy CM

The numbers imply that around 2.8 per cent of Delhi’s population could be infected in a little over a month, up from 0.15 per cent now
Just a day after the Centre relaxed the nationwide lockdown, the Delhi government projected almost a 20-fold rise in Covid-19 cases in the capital by July end, throwing residents into a tizzy. After a meeting with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and other top officials on Tuesday, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia told reporters that estimates suggested 550,000 positive cases by July 31—that’s more than double of the current national count at 266,598. As of Tuesday morning, Delhi had close to 30,000 cases.

The numbers imply that around 2.8 per cent of Delhi’s population could be infected in a little over a month, up from 0.15 per cent now. Significantly, if the cases rise as projected, the requirement of hospital beds would be as many as 80,000 in July. These estimates have come soon after the L-G had over-ruled Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s order that the city hospitals would be reserved for Delhiites during the Covid crisis.

Delhi’s likely to have 100,000 positive cases by June 30 with a requirement of 15,000 beds, the estimates show. The cases could rise to 225,000 by July 15 with a requirement for 33,000 beds. The maths is based on the assumption that numbers would continue to double every 12.6 days. Till Tuesday morning, there have been 874 Covid deaths in Delhi.

“The Centre has denied community transmission in Delhi as of now. Therefore, the subject does not warrant a discussion,” Sisodia said.

With the total beds available in the city for Covid patients at just over 8,000, patients have been queuing up across hospitals, often scrambling for a bed. Kejriwal had recently alleged that some private hospitals were admitting Covid patients at exorbitant rates to exploit the shortfall.

A small private hospital in Delhi, for instance, has a waiting list of 45 Covid patients requesting a bed. “A lot of mild patients have got themselves admitted taking up the total occupancy...There is also a big shortage of trained staff who can administer ventilators and manage ICU beds,  contributing to fatalities,” a senior doctor, who refused to be named, said.

The Delhi government has directed hospitals not to admit patients with mild symptoms, advising home isolation. The state government is also considering taking over hotel rooms to create additional bed capacity when the numbers rise. When malls and restaurants opened up on Monday, hotels in Delhi remained shut. If Delhi’s health infrastructure is stretched, so is Mumbai’s. In Mumbai,  which has more than 50,000 positive cases- the maximum so far in any Indian city, hospital infrastructure is facing a challenge when it comes to intensive care beds. Mumbai has close to 1,200 ICU beds now, of which 1,083 are occupied. The city has around 460 ventilators, of which over 430 are occupied.

When it comes to normal beds, there are around 10,000 of them in dedicated Covid hospitals. While these are treating the moderate to severely ill patients, there’s another tier of infrastructure — the Covid Care Centres — where people with mild or no symptoms and even high risk contacts are housed.

According to industry experts, there is an acute shortage of nursing staff in Delhi hospitals, with fresh recruitment posing a big challenge under current circumstances. Around 70 per cent of the requirement is available in terms of manpower. Nursing staff is difficult to come by in Mumbai too. Gautam Khanna, CEO of PD Hinduja Hospital, said many nurses had opted to go back to their home-states.

The managing director of a private hospital chain treating Covid patients in Delhi said part of the crisis was due to patients rushing to private hospitals. “There are easily around 1,000 private hospitals and nursing homes in Delhi and there would be around 40-50 government establishments,” he said. He added that almost 70 per cent of the beds in his Covid-19 facility were vacant now. “Another problem is that people with mild symptoms now wish to be under hospitalisation,” he added.

Similarly, in Mumbai, the head of a leading private hospital said there were two types of pressure — one is lack of manpower and the other is that mildly symptomatic patients want to be admitted in private facilities. BMC has posted its officers now in every hospital for bed management. “Not everyone needs 14-day hospital stay. This would free up beds for the more critical patients,” said a government source.

BMC is also working to have more intensive care beds in the new facilities — these would typically be beds with oxygen ports. Goregaon, Mulund, and the Bandra Kurla Complex facilities would be equipped with more intensive care beds by mid-June.
A resident doctor in a south Mumbai government hospital said that Seven Hills does not yet have many intensive care or ventilator-equipped beds. It has less than 50 ICU beds in a 500-bed facility.

Patient flow management is a trouble area for Delhi too. Head of emergency in a private hospital in Delhi also said there was no coordination between hospitals, aggravating the situation.

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