The Capital added 11,684 new cases of Covid-19, according to the health bulletin released on Tuesday that showed a drastic drop in the share of tests turning positive, reinforcing signs that the outbreak may have begun to taper.
Officials aware of the matter said they will continue to watch these trends further to take any decision on restrictions, while experts separately said Omicron is now virtually the only variant causing infections in the city, which has helped keep hospitalisation rates low.
Senior officials of Delhi’s government’s health department said the share of Omicron variant in community samples sent for genome sequencing has been consistently increasing, reaching nearly 95% in the last week, up from 62% in the last week of December.
“Omicron is definitely the dominant variant in the city currently and that is a sigh of relief for us because generally among patients, the symptoms are milder compared to the earlier variants. The hospital admissions are also lower because the infection under this variant is not impacting the lungs of patients,” said a senior health official, asking not to be named.
SK Sarin, director of the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS)—among the labs that conduct genome sequencing of Covid-19 samples in Delhi—said similar trends were seen at his facility with nearly 90-95% samples among the total samples tested in Delhi turning out to be of the Omicron variant.
“People are largely testing positive for Omicron in Delhi currently and its share has shown a steep rise since December. Almost 90-95% of the cases being tested are of the Omicron variant,” Sarin said.
The rise of the variant has been drastic. Delhi government data showed that the variant comprised 65% of all infections in the first week of January, growing to 81% in the samples sequenced the following week, according to government data.
The variant is the most transmissible version of the Sars-CoV-2 yet, and has led to near vertical case trajectories in the countries where it has taken hold.
But the hospital rate has remained under control, with over 85% of the bed strength in the capital still available. Only 2,730 of the 15,606 beds in dedicated Covid-19 hospitals have been occupied, data released by the government showed.
The bulletin also showed that on Tuesday, 38 people succumbed to the infection, the highest since January 12 when the city reported 40 Covid deaths.
A little over 52,000 Covid tests were conducted over the last 24 hours, according to the health bulletin. The number of tests carried out has fallen after a change in testing guidelines said those without symptoms need not be tested.
But the reduction is not only due to fewer tests. The test positivity rate of 22.47% recorded on Tuesday was significantly lower than the 27.99% on Monday. On Sunday too, the positivity rate was over 27%.
“It seems like the cases have started declining but we will have to wait a few more days to actually call this a trend and not just an aberration. The cases along with the positivity rate and consistent testing numbers, need to be taken into account to say definitively that there is a decline. But if the trajectory of other countries are to be followed, then yes in the next week or so, Delhi should also start seeing a fall in daily infections,” said DR KK Talwar, former head of the Medical Council of India, who was also heading the Punjab government’s expert group on Covid during the second wave of the pandemic.