At a critical time when experts say the capital is going through the third wave of Covid-19, perhaps the most deadly one so far, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain speaks to CNN-News18 about the spurt in cases, the measures undertaken by his government, attacks by the opposition and criticism by courts.
CNN News18: Sir, You were talking about the peak being over. What is the positivity rate today and is there any indication that things could be improving?
Satyendar Jain: On the 7th of November, the positivity rate in Delhi was 15.26%. It was more than 15%. It was continuously increasing. On the 1st of November, it was 10.91% and within 7 days it crossed 15%. There was an apprehension, even amongst us, that the positivity rate will cross 20 to 25%. In June, it was 37%. It was a big fear that the positivity rate would reach 20, 25, or 30% and then it would have been a huge challenge.
However, it is a matter of great satisfaction, that the positivity rate started declining from the 7th of November. And the decline has been continuous. Now, it has declined to less than 11%, and it has continued to decline.
It is not as if, suddenly one day, it has declined and has shot up the next day. After the 7th, it has been declining slowly in a downward trend.
On the 10th, we had 8,953 cases. After that the number of cases have also started declining.
CNN News 18: In Delhi, the door-to-door survey will begin today, contact tracing will be scaled up. What do you aim to achieve by this?
Satyendar Jain: Contact tracing has always happened. Now, in containment zones, because those areas have been contained, to check whether there are any more positive cases, contact tracing will be done.
CNN News18: How many teams will be formed? What is the aim for it?
Satyendar Jain: The aim is to verify whether there are more positive cases in the containment zones that have slipped through our scrutiny.
CNN News 18: For the past 8 to 9 days in Delhi, we have seen approximately 100 people losing their lives. This had not happened in Delhi before. What is the reason and when can we hope for the situation to improve?
Satyendar Jain: There is always a lag when we talk about deaths. For instance, when cases rise, there will be a lag of at least 10 to 12 days for the deaths to be reported from that period. Similarly, when cases start declining, there is also a lag of 10 to 12 days. Now that cases have started declining, we will begin to see its impact slowly.
CNN News 18: What is the main reason for the mortality? Delhi never saw such high figures when it came to deaths per day.
Satyendar Jain: This is not about per day figures. Look at the percentage. In June we had a mortality rate of 3.5 % which now is between 1% to 1.5%. Today, Delhi's mortality rate is 1.57% which is close to the national average. At one point in time, Delhi's mortality rate was double the national average. Now, slowly the mortality rate will also start coming down.
CNN News 18: Going ahead, will there be a shortage in ICU beds? Is that an apprehension in the government?
Satyendar Jain: Yesterday, we passed orders to ensure that 250 more ICU beds would be available in forty private hospitals. The central government has also promised 750 ICU beds and soon those will also be available. The Delhi government has also passed orders to add 650 more ICU beds. With these collective steps, there should not be any issue about ICU beds.
CNN News18: The Congress is opposing the steep rise in fines for not wearing masks. The Congress is saying that the amount of the challan should be collected from AAP MLAs and the CM.
Satyendar Jain: Most people are wearing masks. Some people feel that Rs 500 is not too much to pay, and are willing to pay that. This is the reason that the fine has been increased to Rs 2,000 so that no one can feel that they can get away by paying Rs 500. Everyone should wear masks. If no person pays a fine, it is the best possible situation. It is unfortunate that crores of rupees are being collected in the form of challans. This means that many thousands are not wearing masks. When we increased the challan on traffic, there was a decrease in violations. I feel that the hike in the fine will lead to a fall in violations.
CNN News 18: How are you looking at the opposition by the Congress party?
Satyendar Jain: They are opposing just for the sake of it. There is no logic in this. I did not find a single aam aadmi who has said that we have taken a wrong step by increasing the challan amount from Rs 500 to Rs 2,000. Everyone has welcomed this decision. 99% are wearing masks and when they are abiding by the rules, they want others to also wear masks so they are not at a risk from others. We have increased the fine so that the 1%, 0.5% or 0.25% who are not following the rules will start abiding by them.
CNN News 18: The high court has said that it has to intervene every time, that it has to wake you up and that the decisions that you took now could have been taken earlier. How would you respond? Were there lapses in containing the disease?
Satyendar Jain: I would not like to comment on what the court has said.