Delhi past its peak, is worst phase of pandemic over?
Delhi, that seemed to have lost the battle to coronavirus in June, changed its fortunes in the last couple of weeks and is showing a great deal of improvement.
On Monday, 954 new coronavirus cases were recorded. This assumes significance as for the first time since June 1, the daily rise was less than 1,000.
Although numbers are impressive, a long battle awaits Delhi.
Context: Cases spiked, infrastructure crumbled, and patients died
The third worst-hit city, Delhi, now has 123,747 coronavirus cases with 3,663 deaths. The healthcare system, that Aam Aadmi Party-led government said was robust, was overwhelmed merely weeks into the pandemic.
Patients didn't find beds, testing wasn't sufficient, and even the COVID-19 dead weren't given dignified goodbyes.
For days after June 19, Delhi logged over 3,000 fresh cases daily.
To control Delhi's crisis, Centre and AAP worked together
As the situation slipped out of hands, the Centre got more involved with Delhi.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah held multiple meetings, antigen testing kits were made available, and a 10,000-bed COVID-19 facility was also constructed in record time in Chattarpur.
All this yielded results and now Delhi seems to have gone past its peak, feels AIIMS Director Dr. Randeep Guleria.
AIIMS director said Delhi may have flattened curve, but...
Dr. Guleria, who is a member of the team formed by the government to tackle the pandemic, told Indian Express that data suggests Delhi may have flattened the curve.
He, however, had a word of caution.
"Considering the trend in other cities and even in the US, having crossed the peak doesn't mean that you can let your guard down," he went on.
Numbers encouraging but have to follow precautions
Dr. Guleria said infection has gone down but not eradicated completely.
"We have to continue to sustain (this) by following social distancing, wearing masks, and close surveillance so that if there is a small cluster developing somewhere, it does not become an area of spread," he said, adding that all the measures that were followed in the last few weeks mustn't be ignored.
AIIMS chief said hotspots have to remain in focus
Further, he explained a downward trend for the next two weeks implies a dip in cases for another four weeks.
"Normally, we would say that when you have a downward trend for more than 28 days, which is two incubation periods, considering the current infection rate, it is unlikely to spread further," he said.
He stressed on continuing aggressive action at hotspots to thwart leakage.
Now, AIIMS is also seeing a dip in COVID-19 patients
Shedding light on the changing scenarios in Delhi, Dr. Guleria said AIIMS was getting as many as 800-1,000 patients per day. As a result, the facility increased the number of beds to 1,500.
"But now, the trend has come down and gradually from 800 beds, we have come down to 400-500 beds. This is almost 50% of what we had four weeks ago," he added.
On low death rate, he said techniques, knowledge helped
With a low death rate being the main goal (Delhi's rate is 2.96%), Dr. Guleria expressed confidence that aggressive techniques and knowledge acquired since the outbreak will keep it to less than 1%.
As opposed to earlier, a lot is known about the virus and its coagulation, he said.
He added patients are administered anticoagulation, steroids, and oxygen, which helped in saving lives.
"Vaccine is still months away, need to be aggressive"
"We still need to be very aggressive because we don't have an effective antiviral drug. We have certain drugs, but none of them have shown to be the most efficient antiviral drug, and we are still months away from a vaccine," he went on.
Meanwhile, India shouldn't lose sight of its non-COVID patients either
Another aspect that Dr. Guleria said needs attention is non-COVID care. He said curbs must be lifted in a "graded manner," so as to ensure that those who aren't infected by the virus get proper attention, while hospitals can also tackle any surge in coronavirus cases.
Importantly, he claimed there is no evidence of the dreaded community transmission stage at the national level.