Delhi's Anti-Covid juggernaut

By Vijaya Pushkarna

A train getting readied to function as a Covid Care Centre

Delhi is on a roller coaster ride as the  state tries to deal with Covid 19, and provide the necessary facilities for its  petrified people.

From a confident start saying Delhi  was prepared to deal with any spike in Covid says end May, the capital city is flapping its wings in all directions, hoping that by a miracle something—just anything—works, to reduce the number of cases, hospital admissions, ICU requirements and death on account of Covid.

One day it was the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s words that seemed the way forward. Don’t rush to the hospital unless you have serious symptoms, urged Kejriwal, after his efforts to reserve the beds of the hospitals under Delhi government for Delhi residents fell flat. He agreed to make peace with the Centre and cooperate and go along with Lt Governor Anil Baijal’s  directions that no such reservation will be allowed.

A couple of days later, as the surge continued, the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, showed he was in charge, and hands on. He held meetings with the Delhi government , visited the LNJP, gave instructions that were quite the contrary to what the AAP government gave. And according to a Home Ministry press release, the Home Minister wanted Delhi government to report every death to the Centre.Effectively, it said that the Delhi government must report when the patient reached the hospital and from where, if the person had been in home isolation, was he or she brought to the hospital in time time! It was also made clear that every positive case must first go to a Covid Centre , and only those who have proper facilities and no co-morbidities may stay at home.

From a policy of people with mild symptoms staying at home in isolation, the Lt Gov ordered that regardless of it all, anyone with symptoms will have to be quarantined in a government approved institution for five days. Within minutes of the announcement, there was a scramble. For ambulances that will take patients to these centres, and stories that these centres were hardly prepared to receive people to be quarantined. And even as people were finding their way to the centres, came an order rescinding the previous one—they can be home quarantined! Why? Because of the lack of preparations, shortage of ambulances, and people not knowing where exactly they should land up!!

The state government’s decision to convert hotels into covid hospitals has been challenged  in the court by some of the hotels . Train coaches converted into Covid care facilities and  parked in the Anand Vihar Railway station are not helping in this sizzling north Indian temperatures. A religious sect’s facility has been converted, and they are in discussions on how to cool the big top under which an estimated 20,000 beds will be readied by July 1.

Between the idea of mandatory institutional quarantining, and inadequate and ill equipped facilities, there are apprehensions that people may simply not report if they have symptoms!! That will only result in the actual number of Covid cases being far more than the government maintains –which is said to be grossly underestimated.

On Monday, Chief Minister Kejriwal  mentioned that the number of hospital admissions had been “low over the past 10 days”. He interpreted that as a sign of most patients being either asymptomatic or having mild symptoms. Since it was his video briefing, no journalist could ask them whther it was possible that people were fed up, scared off, and simply staying home in  whatever condition they were in.

Stories of  people running with serious patients from hospital to hospital in search of a bed, harassed by being turned out and horrified by the amount quoted, are by now all too well known.

Kejriwal could not reserve Delhi government hospitals’ beds for residents of Delhi. He will however send oximeters and oxygen concentrators to the capital city’s patients in home isolation.

In all fairness, people did react positively when the government stepped in and capped the costs on everything to do with Covid treatment, including the Covid tests. The  new rate fixed for the RT-PCR tests is Rs 2400, down from Rs 4500.

But when a family called up a private hospital lab to send someone to collect samples, they were politely told  the home collection service was not available. As expected private players have slashed  services along with the rates, because it is no longer  viable for them.

Patients will once again be looking for ambulances to take them to the testing centres! And then in search of a Covid Care centre !!  Meanwhile, those who are not patients yet are trying  to  build immunity, stay safe, stay at home.


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