The Year of Covid-19: How Delhi Suffered and Battled Pandemic of the Century

·4-min read

The COVID-19 pandemic left Delhi bruised and battered in 2020 but the city fought back with an army of 'corona warriors' and strategic decisions in the war against the faceless enemy.

The first case of COVID-19 in Delhi was reported on March 1 when a businessman from east Delhi, who had returned from Italy, tested positive. On April 11, the number of cases crossed the 1,000-mark, totalling 1,069, while the death count on that day was 19. Active cases on April 27 when the tally crossed the 3,000-mark stood at 2,177.

While the successive lockdowns sought to throw a veil of protection from outside, many facilities, including the LNJP Hospital, Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital (RGSSH) and GTB Hospital were converted into dedicated COVID-19 hospitals, and private facilities were also told to reserve beds, to treat swelling number of patients.

On June 23, the national capital reported its first wave of the infection, with 3,947 cases, the highest single-day spike till then.

Delhi went into a war mode, with government efforts to combat the pandemic being led by 'corona warriors' who donned white lab coats, PPE kits in hospitals and ambulances, and khaki in the streets as police personnel worked day and night to ensure the compliance of lockdown.

As streets became deserted in COVID-induced lockdown, photos of clear blue skies and cleaner Yamuna sprang up on social media, the appreciation of nature and immediate surroundings and the home itself, helped ease the psychological burden of the pandemic, the worst in the last 100 years after the Spanish Flu of 1918-19.

Balconies turned into makeshift performance venues for many in Delhi too, drawing inspiration from people of Italy who sang their blues away by facing their fears head-on. Italy was one of the worst-affected country at that time of the year.

The fate of suffering in the European country was also somewhat mirrored in Delhi, as the national capital on June 24 became the city worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic in India, eclipsing Mumbai, with the infection tally breaching the 70,000-mark.

The city government's policy of home isolation mild and asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 faced a few bureaucratic hiccups in the beginning stage but later it proved to be winner.

When the national capital saw abrupt rise of positive cases, Union Home Minister Amit Shah personally took charge to improve Delhi's healthcare facilities and curb the spread of coronavirus.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain in an interview to PTI in early September had asserted that home isolation policy had proved a "game changer" in taming the surge in June, a strategy the city government would continue to pursue.

While Delhi government significantly ramped up testing capacity from August onwards, when it averaged about 18,000 daily, to 56,000 in October and nearly 90,000 in December, the virus continued to play havoc in between.

In this period, Delhi battled the second and third waves of the pandemic in September (over 4,000 daily cases multiple times) and November respectively, the latter being the worst this year, but the city known for its resilience, soldiered on and eventually manage to surmount it.

The highest single-day spike in Delhi till date -- 8,593 cases -- was reported on November 11, while on November 19, the city recorded 131 COVID-19 deaths, the highest single-day fatality count till date.

With sustained efforts, however, the new cases, fresh fatalities count, active cases and number of people under home isolation, all have come down to much lower figures. The city recorded 758 COVID-19 cases, the lowest in over four months, on Christmas day, even as the positivity rate dipped to 0.88 per cent, from over 15 per cent in early November.

The infection tally in the city mounted to over 6.21 lakh and death toll rose to 10,414 on December 25.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal recently said every citizen of Delhi stood beside the government and fought this battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. "I salute corona warriors, frontline workers; thank the Centre, political parties and religious organisations for their support and cooperation."

While the battle against the pandemic is far from over, the situation at the fag end of the year is quite better. The recent detection of a new strain of COVID-19 in the UK and passengers having arrived here from that country in the past few weeks, has mounted concerns, but the Delhi government authorities say, they are on alert, to ensure gains made in fighting the pandemic are not reversed.

India has recorded over one crore coronavirus cases this year, but in 2021 the focus is likely to be on the arrival of the elusive COVID-19 vaccine.

From installing freezers to setting up cold chain equipment, arrangements, meanwhile are being made at a Delhi government hospital here for storing the vaccine, whenever it arrives.

The Delhi government is fully prepared to receive, store and administer COVID-19 vaccine to 51 lakh priority category persons in the city in the first phase of vaccination, Kejriwal said on December 24.

These persons include the healthcare workers, frontline workers, people aged above 50 and those below 50 years but with co-morbidities.