Overcrowding in festive season, pollution, causing rise in cases: Experts

New Delhi: Milling crowd in festive season, increase in pollution level and laxity in behaviour by many people in observing COVID-19 safety norms have led to a massive surge in daily cases in the last few days in the national capital, experts said on Thursday.

Delhi on Wednesday recorded 5,673 cases, the first time when the number of daily cases here crossed the 5,000-mark.

The experts feel the sudden spike in cases, among other factors, can also be attributed to “aggressive tracing and testing” done by the Delhi government.

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Medical Director of the Delhi government-run LNJP Hospital Suresh Kumar said due to the festive season and reopening of theatres, overcrowding is happening in markets and other public places, which is leading to transmission of the virus.

“Besides, a large number of people are not observing safety norms, like wearing masks, hand hygiene or social distancing. And then rise in pollution level also makes those who have respiratory illness susceptible to COVID-19 infection too,” he told PTI.

However, the Delhi government has significantly ramped up testing, especially the RT-PCR tests, and contact-tracing has been increased aggressively too, and family members and others of positive cases, also being tested.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Wednesday told reporters that this is festive season and slight cold weather already, “but we have also changed our strategy” and doing tracing and testing of all family members and close contacts of people found positive.

“And, we are at times, testing them twice after a gap of 4-5 days. We don’t want to leave any positive case,” he said.

So for this reason the rise in cases might have been seen, but this is “the best strategy and results should be seen soon,” Jain added, while asserting that ramping up of tests was one of the factors behind the rise in daily cases suddenly.

As the city is witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases, occupancy rate of hospital beds has also gone up.

According to official data, 5,404 beds in COVID-19 dedicated hospitals had been occupied on October 26.

On October 27, the number rose to 5,453 and on October 28, 5,665 beds were occupied, it said.

The National Centre for Disease Control in a report drafted recently had warned that Delhi needs to be prepared for about 15,000 fresh cases of COVID-19 per day taking into account the upcoming winter season-related respiratory problems, large influx of patients from outside and festive gatherings.

Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant, Internal Medicine at Apollo Hospitals here said the projection by experts is “scary”.

“Yet, many people are just roaming around without masks with scant or no regard for safety norms which should be drilled in the psyche of the masses. Also, we just had Durga Puja and other festivals, and more are coming up, and add to it the increased pollution factor. It’s a dangerous cocktail,” he told PTI.

Asked what factor he considered as the major one, Chatterjee, himself a COVID-19 survivor, said “complacent behaviour by people, in observing safety norms is really making the matter worse”.

People who may be asymptomatic carriers are just transmitting it to others via coming in contact with others and not wearing masks in public, he flagged.

Kumar of LNJP Hospital, a dedicated COVID-19 hospital, also underlined the laxity in behaviour by people in observing safety norms, and said, “If people followed these precautionary measures, a lot of the new cases can be precluded”. Delhi has been witnessing a rise in pollution the last few days.

On Tuesday, Delhi’s air quality was recorded in the “very poor” category.

On Wednesday, the city recorded a 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) of 297, which falls in the poor category. Prior to this, the air quality remained very poor” for five days on the trot.

The previous highest single-day spike of 4,853 COVID-19 cases was recorded on Tuesday.

The number of fresh cases recorded on Monday stood at 2,832, and 4,136 on Sunday, while the figures were 4,116 on Saturday and 4,086 on Friday.

The active cases tally on Wednesday rose to 29,378 from 27,873 the previous day, according to the bulletin.

The bulletin said the total number of cases has climbed to 3,70,014.

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