The national capital is seeing a sharp rise in the number of new coronavirus cases, days ahead of the re-opening of the city's metro rail service.
On September 2, Delhi reported 2,509 fresh cases, marking the highest single-day spike in nearly two months, according to data shared by the state's health department.
The surge in the number of COVID-19 infections comes at a time when the authorities have geared up to resume metro services that have been shut for over five months because of the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
The last biggest single-day surge in cases in the capital was on July 3, when 2,520 people contracted the virus.
The highest ever single-day spike in Delhi was 3,947 cases reported on June 23. Since then the cases had shown a downward trend until another spike in the last few days. Delhi reported 1,954, 2024, 1,358 and 2,312 COVID-19 cases on August 29, 30, 31, September 1 and 2 respectively.
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With 2,509 cases on September 2, the total number of infections in Delhi reached 1,79,569. Of these 1,58,586 patients have recovered and 4,481 have died, so far.
The guidelines for Unlock 4.0 issued on August 29 by the Home Ministry had asked states to allow resumption of metro rail services “in a graded manner” from September 7. On September 2, Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri said metro services will resume across the country, including in Delhi. Passengers, he said, need to follow preventive measures against COVID-19 such as maintaining social distance and wearing face masks. Metro stations in COVID-19 containment zones will, however, remain closed, the minister added.
Unlike Maharashtra where the state government decided against resuming metro services, the Delhi government decided to follow the Centre’s orders. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had been insisting on allowing metro services for the economy to recover. In Delhi, the metro operates as a joint venture between the Centre and the Delhi government.
Delhi government officials have attributed the recent rise in cases to COVID-19 patients from outside Delhi seeking treatment in the national capital, reopening of the economy and more testing. On August 31, the Delhi High Court while observing that the sudden spike in cases cannot be ignored directed the Delhi government to file a status report on the measures taken by to re-strategise the testing plan in the city.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Thursday refused to term the recent rise in Delhi’s coronavirus cases part of a second wave of the virus, since the infection never left the national capital.
“This is not a second wave. We could have called it a second wave if there were no positive cases for one or two months and then cases would’ve started coming again. The virus never left Delhi,” Jain told reporters.
Jain urged people not to get worried because of the numbers as the spike in cases is also because of the ramped-up testing that the government has undertaken. A record number of 28,835 samples were tested in the national capital on September 2, taking the total test numbers to 16,36,518.
“Yesterday, the number was around 30,000 and today the number of tests will be around 35,000,” the minister said. Delhi’s case-fatality ratio was 0.75 % on September 2, which he said was a good sign.
Jain said the government was gearing up for the resumption of metro services in the capital.
“Protocols are being formulated. Dry run is also being done so that it can be ensured that social distancing is maintained, people wear masks and clean their hands - that they follow a COVID-19-appropriate behaviour,” he said.
Experts said that not wearing masks and violating social distancing norms have led to the sudden spurt in coronavirus cases in Delhi.
"We are seeing the younger population mostly starting to go out, posting pictures on social media about sitting at a cafe or a restaurant, which is quite a dangerous trend," Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital (RGSSH) Director B L Sherwal told news agency PTI.
"This sends out a wrong message to other people that things are okay now as the economy is also slowly reopening," Sherwal said.
(With PTI inputs)