Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who is steering the Centre’s strategy to tackle the grim coronavirus situation in the national capital, on Monday held an all-party meeting and paid a surprise visit to the LNJP hospital after which he ordered installing of CCTV cameras in COVID-19 wards of Delhi government-run hospitals.
It was the second consecutive day that Amit Shah held meetings related to Delhi, where the coronavirus cases have climbed to 42,829, the third highest in the country after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
While 1,647 fresh cases have been reported, the death toll mounted to 1,400 with 73 more fatalities, said a health bulletin.
However, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal scotched speculation of another lockdown in the national capital.
“Many people are speculating whether another lockdown in Delhi in being planned. There are no such plans,” Kejriwal tweeted.
The Union Home Minister began his day with a meeting of the Delhi chiefs of Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress, the BJP and the BSP during which he appealed to the representatives of the four parties to shun their political difference and urge their workers to ensure implementation of the Delhi government’s coronavirus guidelines on the ground.
This will enhance public trust and the COVID-19 situation in Delhi will improve soon, he said.
Amit Shah assured the political parties that the Centre will increase COVID-19 testing in Delhi by adopting new solutions.
Later paying a surprise visit to the Delhi government-run Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) hospital, Shah directed the Delhi Chief Secretary to install CCTV cameras in COVID-19 wards of every designated hospital run by the city government for proper monitoring besides setting up an alternative canteens for uninterrupted supply of food to the patients.
He also suggested psychosocial counselling of doctors and nurses engaged in the service of humanity through fight against coronavirus.
The Home Minister’s visit came after television channels showed visuals of alleged mishandling of patients and bodies, and unhygienic conditions inside the COVID-19 wards of LNJP. Families of the patients had claimed that they were not being provided proper food and medical attention. The Supreme Court too had expressed concern over the “horrific” state of affairs after taking note of the reports.
Amit Shah also said that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decisive leadership, India is resolutely and collectively fighting against the COVID-19 global pandemic and the central government will leave no stone unturned to help the people in need.
The Delhi Government, after an announcement from Amit Shah on Sunday for doubling of tests, hoped that the COVID-19 testing will be increased as the Centre had extended its laboratory facilities to the Delhi government.
Sharing this information, Delhi’s Health Minister Satyendar Jain said all labs and hospitals have been directed to work on their full potential to step up testing.
Jain asserted that Delhi was doing “maximum testing earlier” and will continue to do more testing with whatever resources are at its disposal.
“As far as increasing of testing capacity is concerned, in Delhi most of the lab facilities are under the Centre, so those are being extended to us,” he told reporters.
The Delhi government had designated 42 labs for carrying out COVID-19 tests.
It is also likely to use rapid antigen kits for testing in containment zones and healthcare settings from June 20, city officials said on Monday.
The move comes after the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) approved the use of rapid antigen test kits for diagnosis of COVID-19 in containment zones and healthcare settings in combination with the RT-PCR test.
On Sunday, a slew of measures, including ramping up of testing facilities, were announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs after Shah held two high-level meetings with the Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, mayors and commissioners of Delhi’s three municipal corporations.
During his surprise visit to the LNJP, the home minister met senior doctors in the conference room of the hospital and they briefed him about the number of patients treated at the facility, the deaths due to coronavirus and the admission process among others, officials said.
Delhi government sources said that it was not informed about Amit Shah’s visit to the hospital.
The Union home minister swung into action after criticism in different quarters of the Delhi government’s handling of the COVID-19 cases with complaints of non-availability of beds in hospitals for patients and difficulty in getting the tests done in laboratories.
Amit Shah had announced on Sunday that COVID-19 testing will be doubled in Delhi in two days from then, and subsequently increased by three times.
The Union minister also said COVID-19 testing will be started at every polling station in containment zones and a comprehensive house-to-house health survey will be conducted in the hotspots for contact-tracing.
“It has been decided to scale up lab testing immediately to effectively contain COVID-19 cases in Delhi. There is no upper limit to send samples to private sector labs, provided they undertake to process the same within the stipulated time frame, that is 24 hours (preferably) and maximum within 48 hours,” an order by the Health Department said on Monday.
AAP MP Sanjay Singh and Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta, after their meeting with Shah, said that the testing will be increased to 18,000 a day from June 20.
In view of a shortage of beds for coronavirus patients in Delhi, the Modi government has decided to immediately provide 500 railway coaches which will be equipped with all facilities.
At least 50 coaches with 800 beds have already been stationed at Shakur Basti railway station but none of them are in use so far.
“Another 500 more such isolation coaches for COVID-19 patients have to be deployed in Delhi and we are finalising the stations where they can be kept,” Railway Board Chairman V K Yadav said.