872 deaths in 15 days; cases surge, pollution, laxity in behaviour factors, say experts

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New Delhi, Nov 12 (PTI) Over 870 COVID-19 deaths have been recorded in the last 15 days in the national capital, with experts attributing it to a sudden surge in cases, deteriorating air quality, laxity by people in adhering to safety norms, among other factors.

Coronavirus cases in Delhi have registered a sudden spike since October 28 when the daily infection tally breached the 5,000-mark for the first time and it crossed the 8,000-mark on Thursday, also for the first time.

From October 28-November 11, the city has recorded a staggering 90,572 cases and 872 fatalities with over 80 deaths daily in the last two days.

The city recorded 85 fatalities on Wednesday, which pushed the death toll to 7,228.

The only time it recorded a higher number of deaths was on June 16 (93).

Delhi recorded its biggest single-day spike of 8,593 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday that took its infection tally to over 4.59 lakh.

Medical experts from government hospitals to private facilities have attributed to this large number of deaths in the last two weeks to a combination of factors, including a surge in daily cases amid greater movement of public in festive season, co-morbid condition of patients, increased vulnerability of people due to rising pollution and laxity in adhering to safety norms by people in markets and other public places.

S P Byotra, chairman, department of medicine at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said daily cases have spiralled, so death count has also gone up simultaneously.

'Plus, there are other factors, like increase in pollution level which is magnifying complications of people with respiratory illnesses, and patients coming to Delhi in very sick condition from the neighbouring states,' he said.

However, one factor that has really led this massive spike in cases and hence more deaths, is the 'lax and irresponsible behaviour of a large number of people' in wearing masks or adhering to other safety norms.

B L Sherwal, Medical Director, Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital (RGSSH), echoed Byotra and added that most of the fatalities are of people in the age group of 60s, 70s and above.

'And, most of these patients had co-morbid conditions, like diabetes or hypertension that accelerated their death. But, fatalities are rising in proportion to increase in the number of daily cases and spike in cases have happened also due to people not following safety norms in public places,' he told PTI.

Sherwal and Byotra, both lamented that in markets people are thronging for festive shopping, many not covering their faces, 'as if everything is normal'.

'Though we had expected this surge in the festive season, but not this sudden, when it has already crossed the 8,000-mark before mid-November. We are hoping people will understand the emergency situation and behave responsibly in fighting this pandemic,' Sherwal said.

On October 28, the city had recorded 40 deaths, which increased to 51 on November 4, according to official data. From November 5-10, the fatality count stood at 66; 64; 79; 77; 71 and 83, respectively.

'We do see that the death numbers are going up, but the fatality rate is still reasonably under control, and it is below the figures which are reported in Europe and the US,' said Sandeep Budhiraja, Group Medical Director, Max Healthcare.

Fatality rate in Delhi (average of last ten days) stands at 0.98 per cent whereas for the rest of India, it stands at 1.5 per cent. Death always has to be seen in the context of number of positive cases that are coming, he said.

Also, more testing is happening in Delhi, more number of positive cases are coming and so more deaths are being recorded. One reason behind rise in cases is also that it is a festive season and people have 'stopped adhering to social distancing norms, and they are not serious about wearing masks, so obviously the virus transmission will increase and that is compounded by cold weather,' he added.

The Delhi government has ramped up testing in the past few days, with the count on several times crossing the 60,000-mark. The 8,593 fresh cases on Wednesday came out of 64,121 tests, including 19,304 RT-PCR tests, conducted on Tuesday.

The number of tests done per million, as on Tuesday was over 2.76 lakh while the total number of tests stood at over 52 lakh.

Richa Sareen, Consultant, Pulmonogy and Critical Care Medicine, Fortis hospital here, held 'laxity in behaviour of people and complacency as a major factor behind the surge in cases'.

'Many youth are just roaming around in the city, often without any mask, despite challans being imposed for violations. While their immunity is higher, they risk infecting their old parents and grandparents at home, who in this increased pollution level and if they have respiratory issues, may not be able to make it, if infected,' she rued. PTI KND BUN KJ

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