Nearly 400 per cent surge in COVID deaths in Delhi during Unlock One
Within barely 24 days of Unlock One, the national capital has recorded 50,000 new COVID cases. The COVID deaths in Delhi have increased by 4.7 times during this period. However, the death rate remains at 3.5 per cent of the total of cases being reported.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was among the front runners advocating the revoking of lockdown measures. Maybe it was the depleting treasury that made the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government anxious. While the resumption of economic activities might have rebooted the national capital’s revenue mechanism, the Unlock Phase One has yielded harrowing COVID-19 trends. The COVID deaths in Delhi have increased by 4.7 times during this period.
Ever since lifting the lockdown restrictions, Coronavirus cases are fast increasing across the country. However, 60 per cent of these cases are being reported from Maharashtra, Delhi and Tamil Nadu. According to Union Health Ministry data, of 4.56 lakh cases reported as on June 24, 2.69 lakh cases were reported from these three states.
According to the Delhi Health Department, so far, 70,390 coronavirus cases have been traced in Delhi. With a spike of 3,788 cases in a single day, on June 24, Delhi surpassed Mumbai in terms of coronavirus positive cases. Until Wednesday evening, Mumbai was the worst hit COVID city in India.
While the sudden surge in the positive cases is a matter of concern, it is Delhi’s COVID death data that is showing more disturbing trends.
After the passage of three weeks of Unlock One, Delhi has witnessed a nearly 400 per cent increase in COVID deaths. And this sudden surge in the toll remains unexplained.
Nearly 400 per cent increase in COVID deaths in Delhi
The lockdown restrictions were lifted by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on June 1. Following the new MHA guidelines, the Delhi government opened up the market areas and offices and allowed the free flow of public movement. However, it mandated that the standard guidelines of safety and social distancing measures must be practised.
According to the Delhi health department data, as of May 25th, Delhi had reported a total of 276 COVID deaths. On May 31st, that is the last day of lockdown, the toll stood at 473.
On June 1, Delhi’s COVID death toll rose to 523.
Notably, after completion of the first week of Unlock One, on June 8, the death toll increased to 874. And within a week, Delhi witnessed another 70 per cent increase in the death toll. On June 15, Delhi’s cumulative COVID toll stood at 1400.
On June 22, when the country entered the fourth week of Unlock One, Delhi had already lost 2,233 lives.
The comparative data shows that the national capital witnessed a 372 per cent surge in the cumulative COVID death toll since May 31.
Importantly, the first death in the national capital was reported on March 13th, and it took nearly two months for the death toll to touch the 100 mark.
The national capital had lost 500 lives to COVID-19 by June 1. In barely 10 days, the toll reached the 1000 mark. Notably, the death toll doubled in merely the next eight days.
As per the latest data, as of June 24, 2,365 COVID patients lost their battle against the deadly virus. However, Delhi’s crude mortality rate remains roughly 3.5 per cent.
June: the month of a surge in COVID cases
Back in March, like a confident administrator, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal had said that the national capital was ready to tackle the COVID outbreak. The state government and the Centre both focused on containing the spread of the deadly virus. The nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25 and the restrictions remained in place until May 31st. However, despite measures like identifying containment zones and ‘Operation SHIELD’, the numbers kept increasing. In May, Kejriwal advocated the lifting of the lockdown restrictions. He argued that the country would have to learn to live with COVID-19 and that even though the cases would increase once the restrictions are lifted, Delhi would have enough medical infrastructure in place to contain and control the situation.
Notably, the first case in Delhi was traced as early as March 2nd. The journey to the first 100 cases was slow and it took another 29 days to touch the 100 mark.
However, in barely the next 11 days, Delhi’s COVID tally reached 1000 cases by April 11. On May 18, the tally surged to 10,000 cumulative cases. It took less than 15 days for the COVID cases to double in the national capital.
During Unlock One, Delhi has witnessed a sudden surge in the number of cases. In merely 24 days, 50,000 fresh coronavirus positive cases have been traced in the national capital, including that of Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain.
He had tested positive on June 17 and was admitted to the government’s COVID dedicated hospital. However, when his health condition deteriorated, Jain was shifted to a private hospital in South Delhi. After receiving plasma therapy treatment, the Delhi Health Minister’s health improved and he was taken out of the ICU ward.
But is there any sigh of relief for Delhi considering the surge in COVID cases after the lockdown measures were lifted?
The surge in COVID cases has led to an increase in the number of containment zones. On May 31, Delhi had 103 containment zones. After the passage of 24 days, these zones have increased to 266.
However, the national capital has also improved its COVID testing numbers which could be one of the reasons for the increase in the cases being traced on a daily basis.
The surge in COVID cases and the political slugfest in June led to a coordinated strategy to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. The Centre and the Delhi government are now working in tandem to control the deadly virus. Both governments have decided to improve the testing per million ratio. The MHA provided Delhi with the rapid antigen test kits.
As of June 19, the Delhi Health Department had conducted 17,598 COVID tests per million. This improved to 22,142 tests per million on June 24.
Asiaville tried to get the Delhi government’s response as to what could be the reason for the sudden surge in death toll and COVID cases in the national capital. However, despite several attempts, we failed to get a response to our calls and messages. The copy will be updated as and when the government responds.
Meanwhile, public health experts like the former director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Dr MC Misra have observed that the surge in death toll could have nothing to do with Unlock One.
“The cases which happened around mid-May and last week of May, they would come and present as cases of severe illness in the first week of June. The impact of unlockdown will reflect now,” Dr MC Misra told Asiaville.
“The increased number of patients and if there are any incremental deaths will happen now onwards,” the former AIIMS director said. “Until June 10, it will reflect only the on-going cases, that is, the cases from May spilling over in June. Since we have passed the third week and we are in the fourth week of June, this is the time which will reflect the impact of the unlocking.”
Notably, the death toll in Delhi has doubled between June 11 and June 19. Between June 14 and June 24, Delhi recorded 30,000 fresh COVID cases.
Speaking about the surge in positive cases, Dr Misra told Asiaville, “It is a combination of different factors. On one hand, we say, the governments must ramp up testing. If we don’t test, the COVID tally will not increase. And if we conduct tests, the numbers are bound to increase. In that case, we talk about the increase in cases. So this is a Catch 22 situation.” He further added that Delhi has been conducting more per million tests compared to any other state.
Dr Misra said that the number of COVID cases could be much higher than it is reflecting in the government data.
“We are only testing the patients with symptoms. Testing for asymptomatic patients or those with minor symptoms is not being done. So the number of infected people might be much larger than what it is reflecting in the government data,” the former AIIMS director said.
Delhi is projected to have 5.5 lakh COVID cases by the end of July and would need nearly 80,000 beds. These projections were based on the Delhi resident COVID data. Now with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal’s decision to open Delhi-based hospitals for patients coming from the rest of the country, the official numbers could further increase.