Raising concerns at the Centre, testing and vaccination figures have dropped by 50% in Delhi from the level 15 days ago, when the second wave had started hitting the national capital hard.
Just 43,637 people were vaccinated in Delhi on April 26 (Monday), while a total of 57,690 tests were conducted. This was nearly half the figures on April 11, when 1.14 lakh tests were carried out and about 1.05 lakh people vaccinated. “The two magic bullets to tackle coronavirus are increased testing and more vaccination, as they help identify patients early and reduce the mortality. Unfortunately, in Delhi, things are going in the reverse direction,” a senior central government official told News18, saying the Delhi government was being sensitised in this regard.
Another senior official said the 35% positivity rate Delhi reported on Monday was the biggest worry. “This must come down for Delhi to recover from the second wave. A rising positivity rate indicates Delhi is still far from peaking,” this official said. He added that even though chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had ordered all labs to give reports within 24 hours, these facilities were overwhelmed and not conducting tests beyond a point because they feared they could not prepare reports within the deadline. “This has lowered the number of daily tests, in turn showing a lower active cases,” this official said. Active cases in Delhi were at 92,358 on Monday, down from 94,592 on Sunday. During the first wave in Delhi last June, Union home minister Amit Shah had to intervene to push the Delhi government to increase testing levels that helped the national capital tide over that phase.
Factors behind drop
A source in the Delhi government told News18 that the state was constantly trying to increase vaccination numbers, but the restrictions in the national capital and the increasing number of positive cases might have acted as a deterrent with people preferring to stay indoors and defer their vaccination. Delhi has been under strict curbs for over 10 days now, and the restrictions will continue till Sunday. “We have constantly impressed that people will be allowed to travel to vaccination sites during the lockdown,” a Delhi government official said. However, a central official said such explanations did not cut the ice, especially in the context of falling testing numbers, even as in some cases people were running from pillar to post to get a test done.
The central official pointed out that while 76,954 RT-PCR and 37,334 rapid antigen tests were conducted in Delhi on April 11, the corresponding numbers on April 26 were 38,786 and 18,904, respectively. “The Centre has been constantly impressing upon states that the proportion of RT-PCT tests should be increased to at least 70% to 80% (of all tests), but in Delhi the number of RT-PCR tests have halved since 15 days ago,” the official said. The number of daily positive cases reported in Delhi has doubled from about 10,000 on April 11 to over 20,000 on April 26, while deaths have risen about eight times from 48 on April 11 to 380 on April 26. “With hospitals in Delhi grappling with oxygen shortage and beds being full, testing and vaccination seems to be the casualty — which will hurt even more in coming days,” the central government official argued.
The Centre is also sceptical on how Delhi will manage vaccination for the 18+ population from May 1, given vaccination numbers for the 45+ age category have been dropping over the last 10 days. CM Kejriwal on Monday announced that all above 18 years of age will be vaccinated free of cost at Delhi government hospitals and that an order of 1.34 crore vaccines had been placed. “There is an urgent need to ramp up vaccination of all age groups in Delhi given the high positivity numbers, and the Delhi government should work in mission mode on it from May 1, given Kejriwal was himself writing letters to the Centre earlier, asking for permission for universal vaccination in Delhi,” a central official said.
The Centre and the Kejriwal government have been at loggerheads over the Covid situation with both sides blaming each other for oxygen shortage in the national capital and the availability of tankers to transport oxygen. Kejriwal raised these issues before Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met chief ministers last week. Kejriwal’s televised comments at that event sparked a row with central officials saying it was against protocol. Kejriwal later apologised to the PM on that count. “Till Delhi does not ramp up testing and vaccination, it will not be able to get ahead of the curve of the second wave,” a central government official said, claiming the Centre was helping Delhi the best it could.