Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday expressed concern over the surge in COVID-19 cases in Delhi and pressed for mandatory retesting of all persons who test negative in rapid antigen tests and develop symptoms of Influenza-like illness and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) later. He said false negative results of the disease might give way to complacency among the coronavirus infected.
During a meeting, Vardhan interacted with Lt Governor Anil Baijal and Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Kumar Jain in presence of senior officials, mayors, municipal commissioners and district magistrates of the city. Vardhan expressed concern over the rise in number of cases and the high positivity rate in the North, Central, Northeast, East, Northwest and Southeast districts of Delhi.
"We are particularly concerned over the rise of the positivity rate in these six districts," he said. In the meeting, he was told that 77 per cent of the tests are RAT-based while RT-PCR comprises only 23 per cent of the total tests.
Noting that false negative results might give way to complacency among the coronavirus infected, he pressed for mandatory retesting of all those who test negative in rapid antigen tests and later develop symptoms of ILI and SARI. Vardhan urged the officers to instil COVID-appropriate behaviour among the masses and blunt the momentum of the infectious disease by the end of the year, so that it loses its potency.
He also reiterated the government's commitment to vaccinate 20-25 crore citizens, including those involved in frontline healthcare by mid-2021. Lt Governor Baijal noted that the Delhi administration has been cautioned by experts about possible surges because of the festive season and facilitation of inter-state transport.
He also informed that the administration is working to inculcate changes in standard operating procedures for more efficient containment of the disease spread. Delhi Health Minister Jain requested the Centre to increase the number of ICU beds in AIIMS-New Delhi and other central hospitals to augment the present capacity which has come under strain.
Rajesh Bhushan, the Union health secretary, noted that effective contact-tracing is achieved not only by tracing a large number of contacts but also by completing the exercise within the first 72 hours itself. He requested the Delhi administration to shift patients requiring critical care to the Defence Medical Hospital Facility in Dhaula-Kuan that has provision for 125 ICU beds.
Delhi has registered record-high cases in the past few days. On Wednesday, the city saw a record single-day jump in COVID-19 cases with over 6,800 confirmed infections.