Delhi's Covid Cases See Record Single-day Rise, CM Kejriwal Calls it Third Wave Amid Pollution, Festive Lax

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Delhi on Wednesday saw yet another record single-day jump in COVID-19 cases with over 6,800 confirmed infections as Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the city was witnessing the "third wave" of the virus amid rising pollution levels and festive season. This is the second consecutive day when the number of daily cases in the national capital has crossed the 6000-mark. The city has been witnessing a fresh surge in coronavirus cases over the last few days.

The Delhi government has also started conducting targeted COVID-19 tests in markets and other crowded areas to strengthen its surveillance mechanism. On Wednesday, 51 new fatalities pushed the toll to 6,703. The 6,842 fresh cases were detected following the 58,910 tests conducted the previous day, and the positivity rate stood at 11.61 per cent.

The previous highest single-day spike of 6,725 cases was recorded on Tuesday. Delhi had recorded over 5,000 daily cases for five days on the trot ending Sunday when the count stood at 5,664. The city had recorded 4,001 COVID-19 cases on Monday.

The active cases tally on Wednesday rose to 37,379 from 36,375 the previous day. The chief minister said that the city has witnessed a jump in the number of virus cases in the last few days, terming it as the "third wave".

Kejriwal, however, said that there is no need to panic as the Aam Aadmi Party government is closely monitoring the situation. He said that while there are adequate beds for COVID-19 patients in the city, there is a shortage of ICU beds with ventilators in a few private hospitals which will be addressed in the next one or two days.

"Delhi has witnessed a jump in the number of COVID-19 cases. I think we can call it a third wave...we have been monitoring the situation continuously and there is no need to panic. We will take whatever steps are needed," the chief minister told reporters. He said that during September end and beginning of October, the number of coronavirus cases was less than 3,000 in the city.

On October 6, Kejriwal had said that Delhi is past the peak of the second wave of coronavirus and the situation has been controlled to a large extent. The AAP government's priority is to give the best treatment and healthcare facilities to COVID-19 patients in Delhi and to keep the death rate as low as possible, Kejriwal said on Wednesday.

He said that a high-level meeting has been called on Thursday to review the COVID-19 situation. Meanwhile, Health Minister Satyendar Jain said that the government has started conducting targeted COVID-19 tests in markets and other crowded areas to strengthen its surveillance mechanism.

Interacting with reporters, Jain said, the current pandemic situation in the national capital, can be termed as the third wave. In a high-level meeting on Monday, chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, the current COVID-19 situation was discussed threadbare.

It was decided to concentrate efforts in certain key areas, such as targeted RT-PCR testing in sensitive and critical zones such as restaurants, market places, and salons; gear up the availability of medical resources including beds, ICUs, and ventilators as a preemptive measure and ensure high degree of contact tracing along with monitoring of quarantined contacts so as to suppress and break the chain of transmission, the statement said. Jain told reporters, "Targeted testing has started in market places and other densely crowded areas". Asked if the tests will all be RT-PCR ones, he replied, RT-PCR tests will also be increased.

According to a source in Delhi government's health department, in targeted testing, samples are collected at regular intervals from a restaurant or a market place in an area from where high number of cases are getting recorded or where safety protocols may not have been adhered to diligently. As to why COVID-19 cases in Delhi are rising whereas it is showing a declining trend elsewhere, he said, "We are doing aggressive testing and contact tracing. These may be why daily cases are high. About other places, I cannot comment." Jain also acknowledge that he was getting reports that many people were either lax in adhering to safety norms or not wearing masks at all.

On the issue of reservation of 80 per cent ICU beds in some private hospitals, the minister said, "The high court has put a stay on it, so we are going to appeal in the Supreme Court." Around 800 extra ICU beds would have been available otherwise, he added. Jain also said in the initial days of the pandemic, more cases were coming from congested areas.

"This time, more cases are being recorded in upper-middle class and middle class segments, and they have an inclination to go to private hospitals. But treatment protocols are same in private and government hospitals. Beds are available in government facilities," he said. The National Centre for Disease Control in a report drafted recently had warned that Delhi needs to be prepared for about 15,000 fresh cases of COVID-19 per day taking into account the upcoming winter season-related respiratory problems, large influx of patients from outside and festive gatherings.