India to fly in doctors, add ICU beds to fight Delhi COVID cases

India’s health minister says situation in Delhi ‘likely to worsen over next few weeks’, as government boosts resources amid spike in cases.

Delhi recorded more than 7,000 cases a day over the last five days leading up to the Hindu festival of Diwali [File: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]

India will fly doctors in from other regions, double the number of tests administered and secure more hospital beds in efforts to contain the coronavirus spread in the capital New Delhi, the country’s home minister said, as countries across Asia reported record new coronavirus numbers.

India’s daily cases have seen a steady decline since the middle of September, but its capital New Delhi is battling the latest surge, recording more new cases than any other Indian state.

India registered 30,548 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, taking its total tally to more than 8.84 million. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is the world’s second-worst affected by COVID-19, after the US. Deaths have reached 130,070.

India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday that the situation in New Delhi is “likely to worsen over next few weeks”.

India will also ask doctors to come out of retirement, conduct door-to-door surveys and increase tracking to fight the spread of the virus in Delhi, Vardhan said.

India had 30,548 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking the tally to more than 8.84 million [File: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]

Delhi – home to 20 million people – has recorded more than 7,000 cases a day over the last five days – a record level, leading up to the Hindu festival of Diwali.

Experts have attributed the surge to the festive season, dangerous pollution levels and dip in temperatures.

Toxic smog blanketed India’s capital early on Sunday after firecrackers were set off throughout the night to mark the festival of light despite a court ban, further worsening the city’s air quality levels.

Worries over New Delhi’s health infrastructure

Concerns remain over the ability of New Delhi’s health infrastructure to handle the severe caseload.

To tackle the rise in infections, India’s home ministry said it will airlift doctors from other regions to the capital and nearly double the current testing numbers of 60,000 to fight the spread of the virus.

The central government had assured him that more than 700 intensive care unit beds would be made available to cope with the rise in coronavirus cases, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said after meeting Home Minister Amit Shah.

“Amit Shah also directed that the hospital capacity and availability of other medical infrastructure should be ramped up considerably,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Sunday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies