On April 7, when Delhi had only 525 coronavirus cases, CM Arvind Kejriwal said 3,000 beds were available and promised to scale up the number to 30,000. The breakdown was 8,000 beds in Delhi government as well as private hospitals and the remaining 22,000 in hotels, banquet halls and rest houses.

More than seven weeks later, on Friday, as Delhi saw the daily Covid-19 cases cross the 1,000-mark for the second consecutive day, taking the total number of infections to 17,387, including 398 deaths, the number of beds in state-run and private hospitals remains 5,100, prompting the AAP government to give a renewed push to its home treatment solution and scout for more beds.

Kejriwal and deputy Manish Sisodia urged people on Friday to opt for home treatment and not to come to hospitals unless they are symptomatic. Some private hospitals have been wary of taking in Covid patients fearing general ones might get infected, reports said. In terms of viral overload in cities, Delhi is now second only to Mumbai where infection cases have crossed the 35,000-mark.

THE STRATEGIC CHANGE

The government is trying hard to convince people that home treatment can take care of most cases. On Friday, Kejriwal tweeted home isolation guidelines and asserted over 80% of patients have zero or very mild symptoms. “Such patients can recover in the comfort of their home,” the CM said. The guidelines, later also shared through a 15-minute video, comprise instructions for patients at home, their neighbours, care givers and procedures for self monitoring, along with a nutrition guide.

He, however, said the government will continue to ensure hospitalisation as and when needed. Sisodia and health minister Satyendar Jain repeated the push in their joint online presser later in the day. “There is a fear that an infected person has to be admitted to hospital. We also get a lot of panic calls,” said.

Sisodia, urging patients with mild symptoms to opt for home treatment. This is in line with earlier guidelines by the Centre for patients with mild symptoms. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has also said that nearly 80% of Covid patients will have minor symptoms and only 5% will need hospitalisation.

HOW EFFECTIVE

There’s a mixed response to the strategy. “Asking any Covid-19 patient to be treated at home reflects a failure of the government. It is an impractical situation. The lockdown period was meant to enhance the number of beds and boost other health care facilities. The strategy is going to backfire. Many people don’t have separate rooms and washrooms to maintain isolation,” said Dr Srinivas Rajkumar T, General Secretary, Resident Doctors’ Association, AIIMS.

Some doctors have welcomed the move, with caution. “A mildly infected person recovers quickly and doesn’t need hospitalisation, especially when there is a shortage of beds. Patients who require monitoring and treatment will then get a chance to get cured at hospitals. But there is a need to classify patients who can be home quarantined,” said Dr. Atul Kakar of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

“Government must look at all factors including age, space they are living in, family members, health status of the individual and each family member. Those who tick all boxes can be kept in home isolation with daily virtual monitoring,” he said.

After the lockdown was relaxed on May 18, Delhi has seen a sudden spike in cases. It continues to be among the three worst-affected states after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

THE POLITICS

“I wonder how people in a populated city like Delhi can remain in home isolation and adhere to rules. Mr Kejriwal had said that Delhi hospitals were wellequipped to tackle cases, but now he is advising people to fend for themselves,” said Anil Kumar, Delhi Congress president. Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari also questioned the CM’s claim on beds. The AAP government, on the other hand, shared accounts of patients to back its claim that home treatment is working. “I was advised on water intake. A diet chart was also prepared. I stayed in home isolation for about 20 days,” said Mohammad Raza, one of the patients who have recovered.

BED CRUNCH TRIGGER

Of the 17,386 cases so far, 9142 were active on Friday, 398 have died and 7,846 were discharged. Of the 9,142 active cases on Friday, 4,651 were in home isolation, 2,169 in hospitals, 136 in health centres and 526 in care centres. There was no information on 1,660 remaining active cases. A question to Delhi government officials elicited no response. On May 25, Kejriwal said there were 4,500 beds in private and government hospitals and 2,500 of them were still available for patients.

The government has also asked 117 private hospitals to allocate 20% of beds for coronavirus patients. “We have 5,100 beds – 1,400 in private and 3,700 in government hospitals – for coronavirus treatment. Our aim is to double the number of beds in coming days,” Jain said on Friday. HOTELS ROPED IN On Friday, the Delhi government asked five hotels to be attached with as many private hospitals. Patients with mild symptoms will be kept in these hotels at Rs 5,000/day (five-star) and Rs 4,000/day (4/3 star).

Hotel Crown Plaza in Okhla Phase 1 will be attached with Batra Hospital and Research Centre, Hotel Sheraton in Saket will be attached with Max Smart Super Speciality Hospital, Hotel Surya, NFC, will be attached with Apollo Hospital, Hotel Siddharth in Rajendra Place will be attached with Dr BL Kapoor Memorial Hospital and Hotel Jivitesh will be attached with Sir Ganga Ram Hospital In case hotel patients turn severe, they will be shifted to the hospital attached with it, the government said.

MORE COVID HOSPITALS

In another order, the government said four government hospitals with a capacity of 200 beds each will be declared Covid facilities before June 2. While LNJP Hospital and Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital were declared Covid facilities on April 30, the two additions are Deep Chand Bandhu Hospital and Satyavadi Raja Harish Chander Hospital. Non-Covid patients will be transferred to nearby government or private hospitals. The government will pay bills of private hospitals where general patients from these four hospitals will be shifted.

(With inputs from Chayyanika Nigam in New Delhi)

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