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India's capital Delhi breathes sigh of relief as Covid-19 infection rate slows

A new study estimates nearly a quarter of Delhi's 20 million people have had the coronavirus, casting doubt on official figures in India.
A new study estimates nearly a quarter of Delhi's 20 million people have had the coronavirus, casting doubt on official figures in India. AFP/File

India’s capital has reported a marked drop in the number of coronavirus cases. That decline has freed precious hospital space and given medical staff time to breathe. However, experts have warned that it is too early to cheer as the overall number of infections in India surged beyond 1.5 million.

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Not one Covid-19 death occurred in the past 24 hours in Delhi’s largest public hospital, for the first time since May, officials at the 2,000-bed facility said.

The number of infections in Delhi passed the 132,000-mark as 1,056 new infections were reported on Tuesday, but the city government said 89 percent of the patients had recovered as well.

The claim took to Delhi’s rate of recovery well past the national average of 64 percent and placed it among the safest cities in India.

“The dip in the numbers has now been consistent for over a week,” said Preeti Kumar, vice president of the Public Health Foundation of India.

“And with the expanded testing in Delhi, accompanied by early contact tracing and quarantine, we are hopeful that the trend will continue,” Kumar told RFI.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal added that the death rate too has seen "a dramatic decline" in the city.

Courts question testing methods in Delhi

A case before the courts in Delhi argued that local authorities had banked on a particular testing method which presented a rosy picture of the situation in the city of 20 million. Kejriwal’s government rejected the ruling.

A new health survey to be carried out in the first five days of August will attempt to establish whether immunity levels against coronavirus have grown in recent weeks.

 “We will collect 20,000 blood samples to see if herd immunity had settled in the capital,” a health ministry official added.

 But Preeti Kumar, a public health policy expert, warned that the resurgence of the virus  in Delhi was a possibility.

“The risk of reintroduction of infection in the community will continue,” Kumar says.

“And as for herd immunity, we still don’t know how and at what level herd immunity provides protection or whether it works at all. Therefore, our safety lies in assuming the ever-present threat of re-infection, and to ensure that we do not lower our guard, at least in the near future,” she added.

Another expert also called on city authorities to remain vigilant.

“There have been several instances where the number of cases has started going up after being controlled, like in Kerala,” noted microbiologist Shobha Broor said.

Thousands seek jobs as Covid cases dip in Delhi

The dip in Covid-19 cases in Delhi has prompted businesses to restart in the city where the lockdown ordered in March prompted hundreds of thousands of workers to leave for their native villages.

Nearly 190,000 job-seekers registered with jobs.delhi.gov.in less than a day after chief minister Kejriwal launched the free-to-use government portal Monday to try and kick-start the city’s moribund economy.

“We have taken a very small step,” said city spokesman Saurabh Bharadwaj of the portal called “Rozgar Bazaar” which also aims to help recruiters scout for talent.

 

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