In battling COVID-19, Delhi has shown unity of agencies, politics of welfare and a CM who leads from the front, writes Dr Sanjeev Bagai
The Delhi government has been cautiously optimistic in its battle against deadly coronavirus as reports indicate that the city has been recording more than 70 percent recovery rate since the last few days.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating effects were unprecedented and sudden for India. However, the reality of any democracy is that such extraordinary times are the best times to perform in terms of crisis management and governance. India suffered but a mere fraction of the scavenging deaths worldwide. It is pertinent to acknowledge the leadership of our governments and the chief ministers, they have just saved us from total destruction. If we didn’t learn from past pandemics it would have been history in crisis. One of the best examples of this is the Delhi government under the leadership of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The Delhi government has been cautiously optimistic in its battle against deadly coronavirus as reports indicate that the city has been recording more than 70 percent recovery rate since the last few days. In a public health emergency, mitigating public fear is as important as medical interventions. Delhi government's fight against COVID-19 from the frontlines which gave not only confidence to the citizens of Delhi but also gave strength to the doctors, nurses and other COVID warriors to fight this battle.
Delhi, with a population of over 20 million, and facing a stream of domestic and international passengers, faced the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic from the beginning. The key to controlling the number of cases is the strategy of aggressive testing, isolating the high-risk contacts, and quarantining them, to decrease the spread of the disease. Delhi fought to remove the stigma of COVID by breaking the psychological barrier and promoting home isolation. The Delhi government aggressively promoted home isolation, who were asymptomatic or mild symptoms, with public awareness campaigns to reduce the stigma.
Delhi was following a strategy of high testing from the very start. Even before the end of June, Delhi was testing more than any other state in India at about 10,500 tests per million on 31 May. From the first week of June, a strategy of aggressive testing was started, with a focus on areas that were becoming hotspots. In the first week of June, the Delhi government was conducting 5,500 tests per day. With the help of Centre’s support in providing antigen test kits, by mid-June, this figure stood at 11,000 tests per day and by the first week of July at 21,000 tests per day. The active cases began to plateau despite high testing, from 16 June onwards and new cases began to sharply decline 23 June onwards.
Till early June, there were only 8 private hospitals that were treating coronavirus patients and these had a sum total of 700 beds available. This was in addition to 2,500 beds in Delhi government hospitals. When the cases started rising in the first week of June, the aforementioned 8 private hospitals reached their capacity and when patients reached some of these hospitals they found no beds available.
Bed capacity was immediately expanded in private hospitals. COVID beds in private hospitals increased from 700 to 5000. In addition to this, hotels were linked to private hospitals thereby increasing the bed capacity of hospitals. With this hotel linkage, the number of beds in private hospitals went up from 5000 to 7000. Today, there are over 15,000 COVID beds in Delhi.
On the other side to ensure proper dissemination of information the Delhi government became the first to launch ‘Delhi Corona App’ that displayed real-time availability of beds in every hospital of the city. Significantly in this whole journey, the Delhi government always stood beside the medical fraternity and even arranged counselling facilities for them.
A very important aspect of Delhi government's way of combating this pandemic was to mitigate the case fatality with early diagnosis and prompt interventions. For home isolation patients the Delhi government provided Oximeters which has helped the patient to monitor the oxygen level all the time.
The last but not the least is the decision to establish the first plasma bank of the country in Delhi which is helping thousands of patients to recover from the deadly infection.
As a doctor who has observed these developments thoroughly, I would like to recommend to the Delhi government to avoid the bad Cs - closed spaces, close contacts, crowds, clusters and follow the SMS Mantra — Sanitise + Mask + Social distancing.
I will also recommend that there is a need for grading private hospitals with regards to their infrastructure and other facilities and fair and transparent pricing policies in private healthcare a bit of which the Delhi government has already done. As a doctor, I also think that improving the pay scales of the junior resident doctors and nursing staff with uniformity is crucial.
These are unprecedented times and against many odds Delhi witnessed not only a battle against COVID-19 but also a story of mutual cooperation, a politics of welfare, unity of all the agencies, social responsibility of the citizens, and a CM who led the battle from the front.
The author is the chairman at Nephron and a Padma Shri and Dr BC Roy Presidential Awardee. Views are personal
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