The Delhi government has warned that private hospitals which do not comply with its direction to reserve 20 per cent beds for coronavirus patients by Friday will be converted into dedicated COVID-19 facilities, as the Centre too expressed concern over the rising number of cases in the national capital which crossed the 25,000 mark.
Addressing an online briefing, Delhi's Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said on Thursday that his government's entire focus is on saving people's lives and ensuring adequate facilities for COVID-19 patients who need hospital care, without getting entangled in data or any competition with other states.
He said private hospitals that have been asked by the government to reserve 20 per cent beds for coronavirus patients will be converted into dedicated COVID-19 facilities if they fail to comply with the order by Friday.
Earlier, the Delhi government had asked 61 private hospitals to reserve 20 per cent beds for COVID-19 patients.
With 1,359 more people testing positive, the total number of coronavirus cases climbed to 25,004. Twenty-two deaths were also reported on Thursday as the toll reached 650.
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan chaired a high-level meeting through video-conferencing to review the preparedness for prevention and control of the coronavirus infection in Delhi.
At the meeting, which was attended by Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Anil Baijal and Delhi's health minister Satyendra Jain, Vardhan expressed concern over all districts of the national capital being affected by COVID-19, and high positivity rates and low testing levels in many districts.
"Rising cases, high positivity rates and low testing levels in many districts are worrisome," Vardhan was quoted as saying in a health ministry statement.
He also stressed on the need to rapidly increase bed availability in view of the rise in cases along with avoiding unnecessary delay in admission of patients.
The Union Minister emphasised on the need for ramping up testing, coupled with aggressive surveillance, contact tracing and stringent containment and perimeter control measures.
The high rate of infection in the healthcare workers was also a serious issue, he noted.
"It indicates poor infection prevention control practices in healthcare settings and needs to be attended to on priority," he said.
In the joint virtual press conference with Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain, Sisodia said private hospitals have time till Friday to reserve beds for coronavirus patients.
"We already have our dedicated COVID-19 facilities. Three more private hospitals were added yesterday (Wednesday). And if those private hospitals with mixed use (20 per cent reserved beds) are facing logistics issues, then they will be fully converted into dedicated COVID-19 facilities," he said.
The idea behind the move is to make sure that no hospital refuses to treat patients suffering from coronavirus, the deputy chief minister said.
He also urged people who are infected with coronavirus but are asymptomatic to remain at home and isolate themselves.
In terms of cities, Delhi has the highest cases after Mumbai. With regards to the states, Delhi has the highest cases after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
"We do not have to get into data or any competition with other states, our focus is to save the lives of the people. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also believes that our attention should be more on helping people recover by providing them with proper medical facilities," Sisodia said.
He said COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Delhi and the government has started focusing on ensuring that those who need hospitalisation get beds and proper treatment facilities.
Five government and three private hospitals — Moolchand Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and Saroj Super Speciality Hospital — are dedicated COVID-19 facilities. Many private hospitals have followed the instructions to start the mixed system, but others are facing problems in complying with them, Sisodia said.
Jain said asymptomatic patients with no or very mild symptoms — slight fever and mild cough — can be treated and recover in home-quarantine.
Patients with moderate (respiratory rate of more than 15 per minute and oxygen level below 94 per cent) and severe symptoms (respiratory rate of more than 30 per minute and oxygen level below 90 per cent) require hospitalisation, he added.
The city government has also issued a new set of guidelines for testing of COVID-19 patients. According to an order issued by the Director-General of Health Services (DGHS) in Delhi on June 2, the revised strategy for COVID-19 testing is for symptomatic patients.
All symptomatic (ILI symptoms) individuals with a history of international travel in the last 14 days, symptomatic contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases; all symptomatic healthcare workers or front-line workers involved in containment and mitigation of COVID 19 and all patients of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) are to be tested, the order said.
Direct and high-risk contacts (diabetic, hypertension, cancer patients and senior citizens) of a confirmed case to be tested once between day 5 and day 10 of coming into contact with a confirmed case, it said.
Also, all symptomatic people within hotspots or containment zones, all hospitalised patients who develop ILI symptoms and all symptomatic among returnees and migrants are to be tested within seven days of the illness, it said.
All testing in these categories have been recommended to be done by real time-PCR tests only, the order said.
In the wake of sealing of borders by Delhi and its satellite cities citing the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre to convene a meeting of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana for easing inter-state movement.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, hearing a plea against the border restrictions in the NCR, said the states should have a common programme and a common portal for inter-state movement.
"We are of the view that in the facts of the present case, the Government of India shall convene a meeting of concerned State officials/UTs and endeavour to find out a common programme, common portal for easing the inter-state movement on all state borders in the National Capital Region," the bench, also comprising justices S K Kaul and M R Shah, said in its order.
Officials said the Delhi government is in favour of opening the borders, but there were some concerns by the states involved. They noted that when economic activities are again restarting, the borders too should be opened.
Earlier this week, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said Delhi will seal its borders for at least a week in view of the coronavirus pandemic national capital stood at 23,645, including 606 deaths.