- Mr Jain didn't rule out the possibility of the third wave of COVID in Delhi
- Delhi witnessed the first wave of COVID-19 in June and second in September
- Air pollution might aggravate the COVID-19 situation in Delhi: Experts
New Delhi: Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country, for the first time on October 27, Delhi reported the highest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases with 4,853 new cases. On October 28, it broke its own record again and reported 5,673 cases. The steady rise in cases is hinting at the possibility of the third wave of the pandemic in the national capital. Speaking to the media about the rise in COVID-19 cases in the national capital and what it means, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said, “We should wait and observe the trend for a week. We will not be able to say anything in definite terms till then. It is too early to call it the third wave just yet. But, it might be a possibility.”
For the past few days, Delhi has been logging over 4,000 fresh cases daily. Delhi witnessed the peak of the first wave of COVID-19 on June 23 with record 3,947 cases and the second wave in September with 4,473 cases on September 16.
According to Mr Jain, the current spike in cases was not unexpected because, considering the cold weather and festive season, the government has changed its strategy. Mr Jain explained,
Now when a person tests positive for COVID-19, we also test his entire family and all his close contacts, even those who are asymptomatic. We do this not just once but twice; the second time after 4 to 5 days. Unlike earlier, when we used to wait for symptoms to appear in family members and other close contacts, the entire contact circle is being tested immediately.
With the increase in the number of tests, the positivity rate has also increased. On September 28, Delhi conducted 36,302 COVID-19 tests and had a positivity rate of 5.47 per cent. Whereas, on October 28 60,571 tests were conducted with a positivity rate of 9.37 per cent.
The rise in COVID-19 numbers is possibly due to an increase in testing but Mr Jain believes that aggressive contact tracing and testing is the best strategy to contain the COVID-19 disease. He added,
We’re hopeful that we will see good results soon. We have strengthened contact tracing as well.
Earlier this month, a report drafted by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), had warned Delhi of a rise in cases and suggested to be prepared for about 15,000 fresh cases of COVID-19 per day. NCDC had cited three reasons for the possible increase in cases – upcoming winter season-related respiratory problems, a large influx of patients from outside and festive gatherings.
As reported by a news agency PTI, NCDC had recommended that the Delhi government should make arrangements for hospitalisation of about one-fifth of these patients with moderate and severe disease.
Along with COVID-19, Delhi is also battling the annual problem of air pollution which is likely to fuel the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent study by the researchers at Harvard University in the United States has stated that an increase of only one microgram per cubic metre in PM 2.5 is associated with an 8 per cent increase in the COVID-19 death rate.
Another study published in Cardiovascular Research on Tuesday (October 27), estimated that about 15 per cent of deaths worldwide from COVID-19 could be attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution.
Currently, it is a double whammy for Delhi. According to Vivek Adhia, Country Director-India, Institute for Sustainable Communities, an NGO Driving innovative sustainability and climate solutions by transforming communities, Delhi’s air pollution this winter is likely to deepen the health crisis. He said,
Sustained exposure to high concentration of air pollutants aggravate respiratory disorders, weakening lungs and immune systems. This might increase vulnerability, and make citizens more susceptible to COVID-19 adverse impacts. All our positive gains, and high-recovery rates can fall flat if we are not able to address the air pollution challenge. Delhi has been continuing on an upward trend in the number of COVID-19 infections, reflecting the third phase of rise and the onset of winter based air pollution highs have just set-in. If this trend continues, we may be in for an extended round of lockdowns again. This time coupled with air pollution-induced public health emergency – causing significant challenges on social and economic systems.
With air pollution, winters, festivities and COVID-19 pandemic, the next few months are going to be tough for Delhi and according to the experts, it is not the time for people to let their guards down.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.