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Delhi hints at lifting curbs when cases dip

On a day when the Capital recorded a little over 20,000 Covid-19 cases, health minister Satyendar Jain said that the Delhi government will consider easing restrictions currently in place once the daily case count starts dropping below 15,000.

The city’s daily case tally fell 15% on Saturday, on the back of another drop in testing that authorities attributed to changes in central guidelines, even as the test positivity remained at 30.6%, unchanged from a day ago. Delhi added 20,718 fresh cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, down from 24,383 the previous day on the back of over 11,000 fewer tests.

Addressing the media on Saturday, Jain said that the number of Covid-19 cases in Delhi is at its peak and it could start coming down in the next few days. He said that the government is assessing the situation and will consider easing the restrictions once cases begin declining.

“The cases are coming down. Yesterday (Friday), we reported around 24,000 cases and on Saturday, the daily infections fell to around 20,000. It seems like Delhi has reached its peak in terms of Covid cases and we will now have to see when the decline happens; it is possible in a few days,” Jain said.

To queries of lower testing over the last two days, the health minister said that the government has been following the central government’s guidelines for testing.

“Every day we are testing anywhere between 60,000 to 100,000 samples; earlier we were conducting tests at transport hubs and other public places as well where most people were turning out negative and this was also reducing the positivity rate. Even now, anyone who wants to be tested is being tested,” Jain said.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Monday, in its revised Covid-19 testing guidelines, said asymptomatic contacts of a laboratory confirmed Covid-19 case do not require testing unless they are at risk due to their age (if they are older than 60) or if they suffer from certain underlying medical conditions such as diabetes.

The city also added 30 deaths of the infection on Monday. So far, 25,335 people in Delhi have died of Covid-19.

The Delhi Disaster Management Authority on Tuesday ordered shutting down of dine-in services at restaurants and asked all private offices, except those exempted for providing essential services, to have their staff work entirely from home.

The order comes added to the existing curbs, such as those on non-essential activities after 10pm and on weekends. Cinemas, theatres, gyms and spas are shut on all days, and shops inside shopping malls are operating on an odd-even basis (10am-8pm). Educational institutions are closed as well.

However, despite the positivity rate not dipping on Saturday, hospital admission numbers in Delhi continued to remain comparatively low. According to the Saturday bulletin, 2,620 people were admitted in hospitals in Delhi, up from 2,529 a day ago. This means that over 83% of all hospital beds reserved for Covid-19 patients in the Capital continue to remain vacant.

This is largely because the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which is fuelling Delhi’s fifth surge, causes milder symptoms, and far fewer hospitalisations. Most patients are able to recover at home, without requiring medical oxygen support or care in a medical institution.

As on Saturday, 93,407 people in Delhi were battling Covid-19.

Dr KK Talwar, former head of the Medical Council of India, said, “This variant is so infectious it seems like every other person who is showing any signs of cough, cold or flu like symptoms is testing positive. But it is also not impacting the lungs so the risk of deaths and hospitalisation is less. In other countries, we saw a similar trend that the infections peak really fast and then the number of hospital and ICU admissions start declining. Similar trends are likely in Delhi as well.”


    Soumya Pillai covers environment and traffic in Delhi. A journalist for three years, she has grown up in and with Delhi, which is often reflected in the stories she does about life in the city. She also enjoys writing on social innovations.
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