Light at the end of the tunnel
The month of June was not kind to the city of Delhi. Just last month, Delhi was being labelled as the 'Corona Capital' of India and there were many grim — and official — estimates of how much worse the spread of the contagion would get by July. Now, with three weeks of July behind us, the tides seem to have shifted. From close to 4,000 new daily cases near the end of June to the 1,475 new cases being reported on July 18, the turnaround has been astounding. For 11 days in a row, Delhi has posted figures for more recoveries as compared to new infections. If the trend holds, Delhi could achieve a much-desired decline in cases that comes after the peak. There are obviously apprehensions in calling an early victory on account of this decline but Delhi has still managed a turnabout from what seemed to be the worst outbreaks in India to one of the possible success stories. The Delhi Government must be given credit for quickly and efficiently tightening the noose around the virus in the capital. Aggressive testing, planned isolation and a robust awareness drive have all been the mainstays of this effort to control the number of cases in Delhi. Aside from steadily increasing the number of tests being done in Delhi every day, the AAP Government's greatest achievement is its awareness campaign which has allayed the fear that grips victims of the virus in reporting their condition to the authorities. Many preferred to stay quiet earlier, even when suffering from the symptoms as they had been cowed by images of PPE wearing government officials and police officers dragging away potential patients to treatment centres. All sorts of unfounded rumours only fortified the fear leading to a significant loss in the effort to contain the virus. Arvind Kejriwal decided to calm such fears by instituting a campaign that promotes home isolation and treatment for those with non-severe — a majority of the cases. A medical team would routinely visit for consultations and monitoring of the situation. This ensured that while the Government could keep track of the cases and prevent their spread, they could also keep the load off the already overburdened health care facilities. At the same time, the patients too could recover in the comfort of their homes, free of the fear of PPE wearing government men coming to take them away.
At the same time, the Delhi Government was ramping up its testing capabilities, combining the faster but more unreliable antigen tests with the older, more reliable ones to achieve over 20,000 tests a day. In containment zones, testing was widespread, with every household being tested. The AAP Government also hedged its bets on the somewhat unproven benefits of plasma therapy for COVID-19 by opening India's first plasma bank which would help provide possible symptom relief for those suffering from the moderate form of the disease.
On the face of it, all of the measures have paid off. From a frantic rush to secure new hospital beds wherever possible last month, the Delhi Government is now reporting a surplus of empty beds. Still, experts and even the Delhi CM have advised caution in seeing this as a victory. There are always inconsistencies in data reporting which make daily data released by any state regarding COVID-19 little more than indicative of the situation, rather than an accurate representation. It is also simply too early to call the present situation a reliably sustainable pattern. Still, the Delhi scenario can provide much-needed hope to the nation in this long fight.