Mobility of people from rural areas, not following the Covid protocols and rise in air pollution, are the reasons for the rise in Covid-19 cases in Delhi, say doctors and epidemiologists. On 27 November, the Central government told the Supreme Court that the Delhi government did not take timely preventive measures to contain the spread of the virus in the city.
Joyutpal Biswas, General Secretary of the Resident Doctors’ Association at Safdarjung Hospital, told The Sunday Guardian, “One of the primary reasons for the rise in the cases is because people had stopped to maintain social distancing and wearing masks. Another reason is the movement of people and being susceptible to the infection. Also, reinfection was also experienced in the city because the anti-bodies had started to vanish.”
Giridhar R. Babu, epidemiologist at Public Health Foundation of India, told The Sunday Guardian, “The infection has now spread to a susceptible population. The recent surge is due to the mobility of people from rural areas to the city.” Babu added that the cold weather can increase the contact in closed spaces, making the spread of infection easier.
Virologist T. Jacob John said that the increase in air pollution results in transmissibility of the virus. In the affidavit to the SC, the Centre had said that the Delhi government did not carry out contact tracing, leading to the rise in cases in the city. Asked about this, Babu said, “According to the health ministry, the average contact tracing done for positive cases was only 2.1 in September across India. It is ambitious in a metro city like Delhi to expect high contact tracing rates when the infection is widespread.” He added that Delhi has adequate number of human resources to do so. D.S. Rana, Chairman of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told The Sunday Guardian, “When the cases started to decrease in September, there were fewer tests happening and moreover, fewer contact tracing were carried out and this led to a surge in cases in the city.” He also said that during the pandemic, it is important to carry out community-level surveys to contain the spread of the virus.
Jacob John said that it is practically impossible to conduct the contact tracing of each patient when there are a high number of cases.
Asked whether Delhi has passed through the third wave, the epidemiologist said, “The effective reproduction of the infection started to record below 1% around 15 November. However, the wave is not over yet since the positivity rate is still hovering around 7.25%.”
Babu also said that to contain the spread of the virus, the government has to improve the testing strategy. He said, “The testing strategy does not include only increasing the number of tests, but it is a combination of whom to test (those with symptoms using syndrome approach), when to test (the period of infection), test procedures and which test mechanism is being used (Rapid Antigen Test or RT PCR).” Biswas said that the people should be more careful as it is necessary to maintain social distance, wear masks and wash hands regularly. Babu further said that the government should consult experts’ opinion for the planning and implementation of various measures to contain the virus.