Ramping up capacity and quarantining are critical.
Delhi’s decision to limit tracing contacts of Covid-19 patients to just immediate contacts—foregoing tracing of indirect contacts—is the latest in a series of decisions that would suggest the government of the national capital territory (NCT) is losing the Covid-19 battle. Earlier, the government wanted to restrict testing significantly; while the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) rescinded this, testing protocols are back to the ICMR ones that are also restrictive.
And prior to this, the NCT government stopped testing of the dead for Covid-19. Indeed, instead of building up capacity to treat Covid-19 patients, the Delhi government is indulging in covert blackmail of the Centre over the L-G’s decision to overturn the chief minister’s order to reserve Delhi government hospitals for only residents of the national capital.
While it is easy to agree with Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain when he says contact-tracing including indirect contacts simply isn’t feasible anymore given the jump in infection levels, this jump itself is the result of poor contact-tracing and, therefore, poor isolation of potential spreaders of the infection.
ICMR data shows Delhi tested just 2.1 contacts per Covid 19 cases detected between January 22 and April 30. While Maharashtra also has a poor record of contact-tracing, the government has done a good job in testing and isolation of the infected in slums like Dharavi. Given how densely populated these slums are, infections can spread like wildfire from here; a few days ago, local municipal officials spoke of how fresh cases in Dharavi were down to 10, from around 185 in the beginning of May.
It is early days, and this can well turn around—overall infections in Maharashtra jumped from 2,259 on June 10 to 3,254 on June 11, and from 1,015 to 1,567 for Mumbai—and, at 94-95% occupancy in hospitals, Mumbai is clearly floundering. But the lesson from Mumbai include the city’s attempts to create jumbo facilities and quarantine centres—something the Delhi government is only looking at now in a meaningful manner—as well as aggressive quarantining in slum areas.
The fact that Delhi is a half-state with limited resources, though, is a factor that needs to be kept in mind. The central government too needs to pitch in to create capacity at the earliest; indeed, asking the army to create field hospitals is a solution that should have been tried a long time ago.