As the number of coronavirus cases continues to spiral in the national capital, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on Friday constituted a high-level expert committee which includes ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava to suggest effective steps to deal with the pandemic.
The move comes on a day the Supreme Court termed as “horrific” the state of affairs in Delhi hospitals with bodies being stacked next to COVID-19 patients.
“The situation in Delhi is horrendous, horrific and pathetic,” the Supreme Court said.
A day before, the Delhi High Court had observed that the national capital is heading towards becoming the corona capital of the country.
The six-member panel also includes National Disaster Management Authority members Krishna Vatsa and Kamal Kishore; Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) DG Balram Bhargava, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria, DGHS Additional DDG Dr Ravindran and National Centre for Disease Control Director Surjit Kumar Singh.
Baijal is the chairman of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA).
The development comes two days after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and both the leaders discussed the COVID-19 situation in Delhi.
The count of coronavirus cases stood at 34,867 on Thursday that recorded the highest single-day spike of 1,877 cases. The death toll stands at 1,085.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain had on Thursday described the crisis as a “war-like situation” and asserted that the city government will try every means available to get more doctors and medical staff to meet the ever-increasing requirement.
Interacting with reporters on Friday, Jain rejected the possibility of re-imposing the lockdown. The lockdown in Delhi will no longer be extended, he said.
“The high-level panel will advise the DDMA on various aspects of COVID-19 management, including integration of measures being taken by various agencies for effective mitigation. It would also help in formulating a practical approach to effectively deal with the COVID-19 crisis,” sources said.
Later, the L-G office issued a statement, saying the panel would also provide examples from global and national best practices.
“The LG stated the efforts being made by DDMA need to be bolstered by concerted planning, use of latest technology, efficient monitoring and seamless coordination among various agencies to overcome the challenge,” the statement said.
Earlier in the day, the L-G headed a DDMA meeting with Kejriwal, Health Minister Jain and other senior officials of the Delhi government.
Baijal said ramping up bed capacity and medical resources should be the topmost priority in handling the COVID-19 situation to ensure that a surge in coronavirus cases does not overwhelm the city’s healthcare system.
Earlier this week, Kejriwal had estimated that Delhi would need 1.5 lakh beds by July 31 if people from other states start coming to the national capital for treatment.
Baijal had overruled the AAP government’s order for reserving Delhi government-run and private hospitals only for residents of the city during the pandemic. On this, the chief minister had announced that his government would implement the L-G’s order as this was not the time for “disagreements and politics”.
The L-G said, “Our objective is to break the chain of transmission and reduce the morbidity and mortality of COVID-19″.
Making strong observations, a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and M R Shah questioned the Delhi government for conducting fewer COVID tests. Why has your testing gone down from 7,000 to 5,000 a day? the bench asked.
It has sought responses from the Centre and different states on its plea taking suo motu (on its own) cognisance on the treatment being given to patients and the handling of bodies.
The top court said hospitals are not giving due care to keeping bodies and not even informing family members about deaths, and as a result they are unable to attend the last rites.
In its defence, the AAP dispensation said this is an extraordinary situation and the Delhi government is trying its best from the very first day to set up better infrastructure and to provide quality healthcare to all COVID-19 patients.
The frontline workers in our hospitals, our doctors and nursing staff, are working day and night to serve the people. Many doctors have not visited their homes in the last two months because of their hospital duty,” a government statement said.
The Delhi government is determined to provide health care for all and to ensure best possible treatment to each COVID-19 patient. But, if there are any gaps that still remain and are brought to our notice, we will act on them sincerely and immediately, it said.
Slamming the AAP government, opposition BJP and Congress said the Supreme Court had “shown a mirror” to it over its “shortcomings” in dealing with the pandemic.
“The apex court has asked the Delhi Government why coronavirus testing has decreased in Delhi, which the Delhi Congress has been highlighting for the past few weeks,” said Delhi Congress president Anil Kumar.
Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta said the Supreme Court had reprimanded the Delhi government for the “poor” treatment of coronavirus patients in Delhi and for not handling bodies with dignity.