Delhi has joined the growing list of states in India to declare an epidemic of the deadly and permanently disfiguring Covid-linked “black fungus”, as the speed with which cases are growing in the capital threatening a “dangerous outbreak” of the disease.
With 153 cases of the rare fungal infection mucormycosis reported in a single day, the Delhi government said it was invoking the Epidemic Diseases Act making it mandatory for the next year for healthcare facilities to report each case of infection.
The news came as Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced the capital will begin lifting its lockdown from Monday, albeit in a slow and phased manner to maintain the course of receding infections.
"In the past 24 hours, the positivity rate has been around 1.5 per cent with only 1,100 new cases being reported. This is the time to unlock lest people escape corona only to die of hunger," Mr Kejriwal said addressing a new conference. The first phase of reopening the economy will allow some factories and construction projects to reopen.
But with new Covid continues continue to fall, hospitals are increasingly being burdened with secondary infections like black fungus, a disease that can spread to the nose, eyes, jaw bone and even brain and require amputation of the affected body parts if it is not detected early enough.
Doctors previously told The Independent mucormycosis can be induced in Covid patients by the overuse of steroids, used generally to treat those who are critically ill. It is also more likely to affect those who are otherwise severely immunocompromised.
There have been more than 11,700 cases of the fungal infection across India in the second wave, according to a government tally. Last week, health ministry official Lav Agarwal urged all 29 states to declare mucormycosis an epidemic.
According to Sadananda Gowda, a minister in the chemicals and fertilisers department, at least 25 states and union territories are juggling with black fungus cases. Gujarat has the highest at 2,859, followed by Maharashtra with 2,770 and Andhra Pradesh with 768.
The shortage of anti-fungal injection to treat the disease hit the states in the recent months, forcing the government to import the medicine and ramp up production. Until now the medicine was produced in low quantities due to low demand.
After desperate pleas for hospital beds, oxygen, and drugs to treat Covid-19 amid the second wave, social media was flooded with requests for Amphotericin B injections that are used to treat the fungal infection.
But the supply is being managed by central government to allocate the vials to states in line with their demand.