Delhi, third among the top ten states with most Covid-19 active caseload in the country, took no effective steps despite being aware of the expected surge in cases in November with the confluence of winter, festival season and a spike in pollution, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Friday.
In an affidavit detailing the circumstances that led the Union home minister to personally monitor Delhi’s preparedness on account of the rising Covid-19 cases in November, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) said, “The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) was aware that the confluence of winter, festival season and pollution were likely to witness a surge in cases. This foreknowledge ought to have led to strict enforcement and IEC measures being instituted well in time. However, this was not done.”
It was on November 15, when the Union home minister Amit Shah stepped in and took a joint meeting of officials in the capital and spruced up efforts to augment the medical infrastructure by way of adding ICU beds, ramping up testing facilities, contact tracing, surveillance, and availability of medical workers.
Pointing to the alleged deficiencies in the actions taken by Delhi government as observed by the home ministry during several rounds of meetings held over the past months, the affidavit disclosed that the Arvind Kejriwal government was informed in advance by an expert group headed by VK Paul, member NITI Aayog that Delhi should anticipate for a surge of around 15,000 cases per day in November and accordingly must provide for about 6,500 ICU beds.
“Against this recommendation, GNCTD did not take any timely measures to increase the ICU beds from the present level of around 3,500, thus causing a sudden pressure to come on the health and medical infrastructure in Delhi,” stated the affidavit filed by MHA joint secretary Sandeep Kumar Jindal.
The affidavit also faulted the Delhi administration for not taking steps to enhance testing capacity, particularly for RT-PCR, which remained static at around 20,000 RT-PCR tests for a long time. Patients who were under home isolation were not properly traced. In addition, “house to house surveillance, contact tracing, quarantining and clinical management were also not done properly, which led to the spread of infection,” the affidavit added.
According to the figures made available by the MHA, with 9.2 million Covid-19 cases, of which 0.44 million are active, India is faring “remarkably well” in restricting the spread.
“Recovery rate has gone up to 93.7%. Average cases per day have reduced by 50% since the past eight weeks. Our case fatality rate remains low at 1.46% compared to the global average of 2.36%…We will continue making efforts to reduce fatality rate to less than 1 per cent and accelerate our efforts in reducing the positivity rate which stands at 6.9%,” the affidavit stated.
This was largely attributable to 10 states which constituted 77% of the active caseload of the country. Delhi’s active case load is 8.5% of the national tally. Maharashtra leads with close to 19%, Kerala 14.7%, followed by Delhi, West Bengal, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh.