Delhi witnessed an increase in the number of fresh Covid cases over the last few days amid sharp rise in H3N2 influenza cases in the country.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said that the Delhi government is keeping an eye on the spurt in COVID-19 cases and is “prepared to face any eventuality” as three deaths have been reported over the last four-five days.
Meanwhile, doctors say that despite the surge in Covid cases, hospitals across the country are not witnessing a rush of patients as yet. They say that though people should not panic, they should follow universal Covid precautions with immediate effect.
“Despite a surge in Covid cases, hospitals are not facing a rush of Covid patients as yet. The main reason for the positivity rate is the flu’s new variant H3N2. This flu’s testing is conducted according to Covid rules. Therefore, more cases are being detected. But as observed, this variant of Covid is still weak,” said Dr Rajeev Sood, member of governing body of National Medical Council (NMC) and Delhi Medical Council (DMC).
Fresh Covid cases reached 295 on Thursday and 300 on Wednesday, the highest daily figures since September last year. According to data shared by the city health department, the positivity rate climbed to 13.89% on Wednesday and 12.48% on Thursday.
The country’s top medical body, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), has also stated that the rise in the number of influenza cases is due to the Influenza A subtype H3N2 virus.
“The [Omicron variant] XBB 1.16 is spreading fast but the severity of this variant looks very low because people are not falling sick much. Even in hospitals, only one or two patients have been admitted. And we can say, on the basis of initial observation, that a large number of Covid positive people are asymptomatic,” said Dr Sood, who is currently head of the department (academic) of urology and kidney transplantation at the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital, Delhi.
Sood, however, admits that close attention needs to paid to the variant as the situation can get worse at any time.
“We should pay very close attention to this variant because the situation could get worse at any time. Also, community transmission is taking place. If a person is affected by this variant, then there is a possibility that nearly 30 people could get affected immediately. But they will mostly be asymptomatic, because of the booster dose. [But] Other organs like kidney, heart could get affected because this variant weakens our body. So we should not take this lightly.”
In any virus, [parasitic] nutrition grows continuously. In this too, there is a possibility that second wave’s delta type variant could attack at any time, he said further.
“But as we see, it is possible that this will not be more dangerous than the previous delta variant.”
Dr Manoj Goel, director of pulmonology at Fortis Hospital in Gurugram, agreed that this variant is not more dangerous as there is no involvement of lungs.
“This [variant] is not more dangerous. Basically, there is no involvement of lungs. The people are affected by fever, cold and neck pain but are not facing breathing problems or pneumonia. This is weak and only normal flu symptoms have been reported. This [variant] belongs to the Omicron family. No community transmission is taking place and if it is somewhere, then the situation is not much to worry about.”
Senior resident of Manipal Hospital, Dwarka, Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti also said that the patients approaching patients are suffering from flu and not Covid.
“There has been no Covid patient in our hospital recently. But many patients suffering from flu are approaching us. We scrutinise these closely, check whether they are affected only by flu or have symptoms of Covid as well. But it is clear that Covid is surging fast. So, we should take precautions and masks must be worn by everybody. In recent times, people had stopped using masks. Even our doctor colleagues had stopped wearing masks in hospitals but they have begun wearing them again. The universal precautions should be followed and people should avoid crowded places.”
Dr Bhatti added further that they are keeping a close watch on the rise.
“Though we did not find any Covid positive patient in our hospital, doubts remain since the cases are increasing rapidly. It could be that we will face a dangerous trend in future. As of now, we have not allotted any emergency or Covid ward but if a patient comes, we will make a separate ward. We are on full alert.”
Dr Sood said that NMC and DMC are well prepared for any eventuality and felt the preparations were sufficient.
“Our current preparation in the [RML] hospital is sufficient. Our teams are on alert and are also going to high-risk areas, VIP points for sampling and immunisation. A mock drill is planned for the second week of April. Other hospitals also have facilities for this. And now we have the previous (second wave) experience too.”
He urged the people to follow Covid protocols and not venture out unnecessarily.
“The time has come that we should follow all Covid protocols again. Immunisation has almost been completed for all. People should avoid going out without any reason. Senior citizens, or those suffering from blood pressure and other breathing problems should take more precautions and avoid going to crowded places. Wearing masks, social distancing (two yards), hand-washing and other precautions should be restarted. People have started shaking hands, this is very dangerous,” he said further.
“NITI Aayog and the health ministry are fully active and holding meetings regularly. The government health officials have also held meetings and alerted everyone. They have also provided instruction for mock drills, preparation of ventilator and oxygen. We all will report to them about it,” concluded Dr Sood.
The Delhi government-run hospitals have also carried out mock drills to assess their preparedness. The Lok Nayak Hospital also conducted a two-hour long mock drill.
ICMR and the Union health ministry had issued a joint advisory on Covid protocols to the states, emphasising them to follow public health measures like wearing a mask in crowded and closed settings, avoiding overcrowded places and using handkerchief or tissue while sneezing or coughing, maintaining hand hygiene, avoiding spitting in public places.
According to Press Information Bureau (PIB), Centre reviewed public health preparedness for the management of Covid-19 and Covid-19 vaccination progress with states.
Rajesh Bhushan, the Union Health Secretary, had chaired a high-level meeting to review preparedness status with states and UTs through a video conference. Dr VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog and Dr Rajiv Bahl, Secretary, Department of Health Research, were also present in the review meeting.