Delhi's health infrastructure should be reserved for residents during the coronavirus pandemic, an expert panel formed by the Arvind Kejriwal government has recommended amid a spurt of virus cases in the national capital, sources say. All hospital beds in Delhi will be occupied in three days if non-residents with COVID-19 are allowed, it said.
The panel headed by the Indraprastha University vice-chancellor, Dr Mahesh Verma, has submitted its report to the government.
Earlier this week, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had sought public opinion on whether Delhi hospitals should be barred for those coming from outside for treatment. He had formed a five-member expert panel to advise it on augmenting the national capital's health infrastructure and overall preparedness to tackle the pandemic.
The other members of the panel are: Dr Sunil Kumar, the medical director of GTB Hospital; Dr Arun Gupta, president of Delhi Medical Council; Dr RK Gupta, former president of Delhi Medical Association; and Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, the group medical director of Max Hospital.
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, in an interview with NDTV on Saturday, slammed the idea.
"How can Delhi's beds be reserved for people of Delhi? How can Mumbai's beds be only for Mumbaikars? How can Kolkata's beds be only for people of Kolkata? There isn't a requirement of passport and visa to come to Delhi. People from all across the country come to the national capital for treatment. There shouldn't be any politics in this. There is a need for sensitivity," he said.
Delhi, with around 26,334 cases and over 700 deaths, is the third worst-hit state in the country after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. It has been reporting over a thousand cases daily for the past few days.
On Friday, Delhi reported 1,330 fresh coronavirus cases. On June 3, it had recorded its worst tally- 1,513 cases.
Mr Kejriwal on Saturday said there is no shortage of beds for critical coronavirus patients in Delhi and no one showing symptoms should be turned away.
"Some hospitals are denying admission to COVID-19 patients. I am warning those who think they will be able to do black-marketing of beds using the influence of their protectors from other parties, you will not be spared," Mr Kejriwal said.
The Chief Minister said the healthcare system in the national capital will, however, collapse if thousands of asymptomatic people queued up for testing. He said testing should be for only those who show symptoms to avoid overrunning the healthcare system's capacity to treat people.
Last month, Mr Kejriwal had said Delhi was prepared to deal with the virus as it had adequate hospital beds. He had demanded from the centre that the coronavirus lockdown be eased.
The centre later allowed restaurants, malls and religious places from June 8 under what it called "Unlock 1". It had also allowed intra and inter-state movement of people and goods.