'Doubling testing, adding beds done to tackle Covid'

Doubling testing capacity, adding ICU beds among steps taken to tackle spike in Covid-19 cases in Delhi: Centre

A medical worker collects a swab sample from a man for a RT-PCR test for the Covid-19 coronavirus along a street in New Delhi. Credit: AFP.

Doubling Covid-19 testing capacity to 1 to 1.2 lakh and increasing ICU beds to over 6,000 are among the decisions taken by the government to tackle the spike in coronavirus infections in Delhi, the Centre said on Tuesday.

A decision has also been taken to increase house to house surveillance of active cases in containment zones and other vulnerable pockets for which 7,000-8,000 teams will be put on this exercise, an increase from the existing 3,000 teams that are currently involved.

Addressing a press conference, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said Delhi was testing very less in June at around 5,776 tests per day and that number rose to over 50,000 in September which after it plateaud out and the recent spike of Covid-19 cases may be because many positive cases escaped the net.

"In the last two days, decision of urgent actions taken by the government included an increase in overall beds, including ICU beds, doubling testing to 1-1.2 lakh per day, right mix of RT-PCR and antigen tests, strengthening and augmenting home care support, mobilising doctors and nurses, enforcing quarantine of contacts, containment zone SOPs and Covid appropriate behaviour," he said.

Elaborating further, NITI Aayog member V K Paul who heads Covid-19 national taskforce said the ICU bed capacity will be increased from 3,523 to over 6,000 in the next few days in hospitals across Delhi.

"The capacity, which was 3,523, we will increase it to over 6,000 ICU beds in the next few days. Arrangement of over 537 new ICU beds have been made at the 1000-bed Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Covid facility operated by DRDO. The Delhi government is making arrangements for 2,680 ICU beds, and big hospitals under the Centre like Safdarjung and Lady Harding, in these also 45 beds will be increased. We have a plan to increase ICU bed strength by 80 per cent," he said.

On increasing the testing capacity, Paul said that arrangements would be put in place to enable ICMR and central government laboratories to do 10,000 more tests a day. Besides that, 10 mobile laboratories will be deployed in the national capital.

"We will utilise the capacity of science and technology research institutes for testing too," he said.

"If cases go up higher, we plan to ramp up the capacity to monitor 35,000 to 40,000 active cases in home isolation at any given time. We have a plan along with the Delhi government on that," he said.

Paul further said that private sector has been a very important part of the government's efforts.

"In order to improve coordination 10 multidisciplinary teams have been constituted which will visit private health facilities in Delhi to see whether they are following COVID-19 protocols and also help them serve the people better," he said.

"We can also take help of railways to provide quarantine beds. And in this regard 800 beds have been made available," he said.

Giving an overall picture, Bhushan said over 12.65 crore Covid-19 tests have been conducted so far and the cumulative positivity rate has come down to 7.01 per cent

"Ten states and UTs, including Maharashtra, Delhi, Kerala and West Bengal, account for 76.7 pc of the total active cases of COVID-19 in the country. We believe that effects of elections, Durga Puja, Diwali etc are still to be played out in full and may be seen in the coming weeks. We have to keep watching the new cases very carefully," he added.

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