Delhi’s Covid disaster

Delhi is sinking deeper into the Covid quagmire. The national capital’s biggest single-day case spike and the highest single-day death toll so far have both been reported this month. Over one lakh new coronavirus cases were recorded between November 1 and 16. After the outbreak of the pandemic in March, it had taken Delhi four months to reach the count of one lakh cases. It’s obvious that a major opportunity to ramp up healthcare infrastructure during the lockdown months, when the caseload was relatively manageable, has been frittered away. The ongoing ‘third wave’ of infections is proving to be the most virulent, exposing the under-preparedness of the authorities. The High Court has been justifiably unsparing in its criticism of the AAP government for the mess-up.

How horribly bad things were in the city-state had been red-flagged by the case of Covid-positive cop Amit Kumar, who was forced to knock at the door of one hospital after another in May. The 32-year-old died after he failed to get timely medical attention. Six months later, the situation seems to have only worsened. The blame game between the AAP government and the BJP-ruled municipal corporations has hit medical services. Resident doctors of hospitals run by the MCD (North) had to resort to a hunger strike in October over the non-payment of salaries for months together. Ironically, healthcare was one of the poll planks that had helped Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP record a landslide victory in the February elections.

In September-October, experts had warned of a fresh surge during the festive season amid a drop in air quality, partly due to stubble burning in neighbouring states. However, the mismanagement being witnessed now has laid bare the inadequacy of all the planning. State and Central governments, along with local bodies, must stop passing the buck. Covid control measures will yield little as long as agencies keep working at cross purposes. The residents, too, need to behave responsibly for their own good. Hopefully, the four-fold hike in the fine for not wearing a mask will make them see reason. Otherwise, Delhi’s failure may undermine the country’s efforts to contain the pandemic.

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