Delhi's Covid count crosses 50,000, death toll breaches 2,000-mark

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The number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in Delhi crossed the 50,000-mark on Friday, with 3,137 new cases over the past 24 hours, as per the city government’s daily health bulletin. Friday’s surge, the highest in a single day as well, took the city’s total to 53,116.

The city added 10,000 cases in five days, with total cases reaching 41,182 on June 14, when Delhi recorded 2,224 cases in a single day.

Delhi had recorded its first case of the infectious disease on March 2, when a Mayur Vihar resident tested positive for the infection after returning from Italy. Since then, it took 40 days to record the first 1,000 cases and another 37 days for 10,000 cases.

It just took 14 days for the city to record the next 10,000 cases. The number of cases had crossed the 20,000 mark on June 1, with 990 new cases taking the total to 20,834.

In all, it took the Capital 110 days since the first case to touch the 50,000-mark.

With 66 deaths due to Covid-19 over the last 24-hours, the total toll of the viral infection in the city also crossed the 2,000 mark. This takes Delhi’s case fatality rate to 3.8%.

The case fatality rate started inching up when the Delhi government started recording backlog deaths May 12 onwards. When a discrepancy was pointed out in the cumulative data shared by the state government and that shared by individual hospitals, the government set new protocols to ensure every hospital reported their Covid-19 deaths the same day by 5 pm. The case fatality rate on May 12 stood at 1.1%.

The case fatality rate shot up to 4.1% on June 16, when the three-member death review committee reconciled their data, adding 437 deaths to the city’s cumulative toll.

The city hit the 50,000-mark on June 19, four days later than predicted by a five-member panel set up in early June to estimate the need for healthcare infrastructure to match the swelling number of cases. The committee had said there would be 50,000 cases by mid-June, and 100,000 cases by the end of the month. The city will need at least 15,000 beds to treat those who are severely ill by the end of the month.

Currently, the city has 12,208 beds earmarked for the treatment of Covid-19 patients in both government and private hospitals. The government is also working on setting up makeshift hospitals in stadiums and banquet halls to increase bed strength to match the projection of 150,000 beds needed by the end of the next month.

Experts say millions more will be infected and thousands will die before the city reaches the peak of the infection.

“These numbers are the infections that have been detected. There might be many more in the community. Before the infection peaks in Delhi, between four and seven million, or 20-30% of the city’s population would have been exposed to the infection. The trend shows, this will happen quickly, probably over the next two weeks. The infections will peak in Delhi and Mumbai first, after which they will pick up in the rural areas,” said Dr T Jacob John, professor emeritus and former head of the department of virology at Christian Medical College, Vellore.

Even if the mortality rate stands at 1%, Dr John says the number of deaths in Delhi will be between 40,000 to 60,000. “The mortality rate will go up slightly as Delhi nears the peak, because of hospitals being over-burdened,” he said.

The experts suggest testing and isolation as the only way forward.

“The only way out is to test aggressively, conduct contact tracing and then seal areas which are reporting a high number of cases. Also, we need real-time data from hospitals on how many positive and suspected patients are ending up in hospitals, ICUs and ventilators. If the number is going up then Delhi should consider locking down vulnerable areas. I know the economic costs but there is little option,” said Amit Singh, associate professor, Centre for Infectious Disease Research, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

The government is working on ramping up Delhi’s testing, which almost doubled with more than 7,000 people being tested using the new rapid antigen test on Thursday. “100% compliance to wearing mask also has to be implemented. We have to communicate with people and ensure that they wear masks during all social interactions to cut further transmission,” said Dr John.

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