India overnight ordered a revised plan to combat Covid-19 calling out military troops to manage makeshift treatment facilities, launch household levels screening and re-design containment zones in New Delhi while the country emerged as the fourth worst victim of the global pandemic.
"In pursuance to the recommendations for strengthening Covid-19 Surveillance response in the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi . . . a revised Delhi Covid response plan has been worked up for implementation in NCT of Delhi," read a government order.
The media obtained today the order that contained eight points including strengthened surveillance and oversight system, revamped containment zone strategy, enhanced contact tracking activities, optimized ICT use for pandemic response and intensified serological surveys.
The central government order came as Indian healthcare authorities today reported 16,000 new coronavirus cases, its highest daily increase since the outbreak began, while authorities called in the army to manage new treatment centres with thousands of additional hospital beds in New Delhi.
The Indian capital, home of 20 million people, simultaneously recorded its highest single-day increase today, with more than 3,900 cases while local government data showed that of the roughly 13,400 beds allocated to Covid-19 patients in the city, around 6,200 were occupied.
Infection tallies suggest that at more than 456,000 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, India appeared as the fourth worst-hit country in the world, behind the United States, Brazil and Russia.
Experts feared cases were likely to keep rising as state governments' eased restrictions while the union home ministry said the city would have around 20,000 additional beds available by next week at temporary facilities run by army doctors and nurses.
These include a 10,000-bed facility hosted at a religious centre and railway coaches turned into wards.
"Armed Forces personnel have been detailed for providing medical care and attention to Covid-19 patients housed in the Railway coaches in Delhi," Home Minister Amit Shah said.
The city government estimated the capital would have 550,000 Covid-19 cases by end July as the alarming spike would require 150,000 beds by then.
The revised Covid-19 strategy sought every house in Delhi to be screened by July, containment zones to be redesigned by June 26 with the screening of every house there to be done by June 30 and take every Covid-19 patient to a treatment facility.
The screening of the rest of Delhi will have to be completed by 6 July.
But Delhi's Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that a new union government order to take every positive patient to an assessment centre as opposed to evaluating them at home was stretching already limited resources.
"Our ambulance system, our medical system is under pressure now . . . . Today, we had to take patients in buses," Sisodia said.
According to the Delhi government, the current number of containment zones in the capital is 261 and about 45 percent of the cases are showing signs of clustering in these zones as more than 2,500 new cases and up to 75 deaths are being reported every day in the city.
"(But) once a zone is declared as a container zone, it will have to strictly follow the rules and active case search will be done inside the containment zone. There will be a sufficient number of buffer zones around the container zone," the Delhi government said in a statement.