The Capital has been waging a battle against COVID-19 since March, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Saturday while recounting the lessons learnt and steps taken to control the virus.
“While there is no certainty on how long the battle will last, what is certain is that Delhi will prevail and the virus will lose,” he said, adding that the five key weapons to combat the virus were: increasing hospital beds; increasing testing and isolation; providing oximeters to patients under home isolation; plasma therapy trials; and survey and screening.
“Delhi is fighting a tough battle against COVID-19. As your Chief Minister, I want to brief you on the struggles that Delhi had to face in its fight against the pandemic. Our fight started in March when the pandemic had spread across the globe in various nations, Indians living abroad expressed their desire to return to the country. The Central government took the right decision by arranging for flights for people in other countries to help them return to India,” he said.
“In March, 35,000 Indians arrived in Delhi, especially from nations that had been badly hit by the virus. These people were screened at the airport for fever. Some were sent to Centre-administered hospitals, such as RML and Safdarjung but many were allowed to go home. Some were quarantined, but more or less 35,000 people were sent back to their homes. There was very little information, facts, and guidelines available on COVID-19. When these people returned home, naturally, the virus got transmitted to their contacts. During those days, there were no testing kits or testing labs available… testing was not done at the scale it is being done today,” he said.
The lockdowns helped control the spread of virus. We expected a rise in cases once restrictions were lifted “but not on the scale” that has happened, he added.
This, he said, was followed by the lockdown. As people were in their houses all the time, the virus did not spread rapidly and the transmission rate was low, Mr. Kejriwal said. When the lockdown restrictions started being eased in the last week of May, however, a spike in the number of cases was anticipated, but not on the scale it actually did.
“This spike in Delhi can be noticed around May 15. As we entered June, the cases had increased more than expected, and we started noticing a lack of beds and testing in the city. Because of a lack of beds, people were not able to get treatment and there was also a sudden spike in the death rate,” he said.
“We had two options: the first was to reimpose the lockdown and the second was to fight the outbreak. On asking the people of Delhi, we realised that the lockdown had to be lifted… and so the five weapons were prepared to fight a hard-hitting battle against COVID-19,” said the CM. The first step, he said, was increasing hospital beds. After a crunch at the beginning of the month, in the last week of June, there are 13,500 beds in Delhi, out of which 6,000 beds are occupied and 7,500 vacant.
The second weapon, he said, was testing and isolation. In the first week of June, 5,000 tests were being conducted daily, but now 20,000 daily tests were being conducted. “I want to thank the Central government for providing antigen kits for conducting rapid testing in Delhi. We have also procured 6 lakh kits to conduct these tests, but the initial kits were provided by the Centre. They have supported us,” he said.
The third weapon, according to Mr. Kejriwal, was oximeters and oxygen concentrators. Around 4,000 oxygen concentrators had been arranged and all beds in Delhi government hospitals had arrangements in this regard, he said. The fourth weapon was conducting plasma therapy on patients with moderate symptoms in which Delhi had shown the way forward: the first plasma therapy trial was given to 29 patients in the city.
The fifth weapon was survey and screening. A serological survey in Delhi began on Saturday to detect areas where COVID-19 was spreading rapidly. “We want to thank the Central government for supporting us in this battle. We want to thank the media for telling us about our shortcomings, because of which we were able to address the grievances of the people and bring improvements,” he said.
“Our victory is definite, we will certainly defeat COVID-19, and these five weapons will prove to be very effective in our battle,” Mr. Kejriwal also said.
Meanwhile, the Opposition BJP on Saturday accused Mr. Kejriwal of making grand announcements which “sound good but do not actually materialise”. Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta alleged that Mr. Kejriwal kept giving “false assurances” regarding the COVID-19 situation in the city through press conferences when the health system had in fact “completely collapsed”.
“ Under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah took stock of Delhi’s health condition and took all important steps to save the people from COVID-19,” he said.
Leader of the Opposition in the Delhi Assembly, Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, wrote to Mr. Kejriwal, demanding to know as to how many oximeters and oxygen cylinders had been distributed to the people of the Capital.