Millennium Post

Unmanaged deficiency

Following a meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, Manish Sisodia, apprised reporters that the Capital is expected to have 5.5 lakh Covid-19 cases by the end of July. Tagging with this grievous projection was the bed requirement which would shoot up to 80,000 by then. For a comparative picture, Delhi currently has nearly 9,000 Covid-19 beds across a hundred government and private hospitals; biggest being the Lok Nayak Hospital with 2,000 beds followed by GTB Hospital with 1,500 beds. The projection conceived in the meeting of Delhi's top executives signals troublesome weeks ahead, especially given the Capital's current preparedness. Delhi has recorded a four-digit rise in daily caseload consecutively since May 28. In fact, Delhi's doubling rate is 13 days whereas Mumbai — the worst-hit city in the country with more than 50,000 cases — sits at 20. These statistics are dynamic and subject to continuous change but at the same time, insightful trends which can aid in executive decision-making. If the daily caseload has been more than 1,000 for 14 days now, why has there been no discussion on placing curbs on optional activities such as public worshipping? It is understandable that cases will arise when curbs are lifted as the virus gets the opportunity to jump hosts but Delhi's population appears to be a breeding ground for it. A city of more than two crore people with a doubling rate of 13 days and daily caseload of more than 1,000 does not appear to be a conducive environment for the kind of relaxations that it has been provided in this 'unlockdown 1.0'. A review of relaxations and reimposition of restrictions in this regard would serve in Delhi's interest. The objective is to safely turn the economic wheel, spurring demand and supply and giving the market forces back is momentum. But the social clusters that Delhi cannot be deprived of is playing the risk in the face of impending disaster. Media reports of patients finding it difficult to get beds corroborates to the pressure on Delhi's health infrastructure. The two-month lockdown is starting to appear as an opportunity squandered for scaling up preparations. At the current juncture, Delhi must come up with an action plan to control the daily rise.

Foremost is the clarity from governments — be it Delhi or Centre — on the situation of spread in the Capital. While Delhi's Health Minister admits that 50 per cent of cases in Delhi do not know the source of their infection, there has not been any announcement of a community spread in the Capital. Therefore, it is important that the Delhi government and the Centre sit down to arrive at a scientifically-backed consensus on the situation of the infection in Delhi whilst deliberating on an emergency plan to combat the grievous projection of 5.5 lakh cases by July 31. It is also necessary to understand that the healthcare stress that Delhi is witnessing today also signifies how underprepared India as a nation is when it comes to pandemics. Delhi is widely regarded as a top destination for medical treatment in the country, having the best medical facilities and doctors. If this exponential rise were to shift to any lesser equipped part of the country, the disaster would be difficult to fathom. So while Delhi must deliver to the demand it hardly seems prepared for, a short and crisp message must percolate in the conscience of policymakers: Increase India's Health to GDP at all costs. We require more institute for producing doctors and more hospitals. The pandemic might have been once in a blue moon disaster but the kind of medical infrastructure that India, in general, requires for its staggering population is inadequate. A casual visit to OPDs of top government hospitals on a normal day is enough to corroborate this statement.

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