More ICU beds, doctors: Amit Shah steps in to tackle Delhi’s rising COVID fears

New Delhi, Nov 18 (Agencies) : In the backdrop of rising number of Covid cases in Delhi and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal seeking Central assistance, Union home minister Amit Shah is once again at the helm of Delhi’s Covid management. A slew of steps have been taken by the home ministry, which has constituted 10 multi-disciplinary teams to visit more than 100 private hospitals in the national capital for assessing bed utilisation, testing capacity and identifying extra ICU beds. These teams have been tasked to assess the correct position of availability of beds to avoid panic situations while ensuring availability of enough supporting infrastructure.
While visits by the teams are already underway, the Centre has decided to begin house to house surveys in the capital by the weekend to assess the Covid situation. “The survey is expected to begin by the weekend and completed by November 25,” said a home ministry spokesperson. An orientation meeting of deputy commissioners, MCD officials and other stakeholders is being held by the health ministry to sensitise them about the steps being taken by the government and coordinate its implementation on the ground.
The home ministry said that Shah is laying special emphasis on bringing testing closer to Delhi residents. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has been directed to assist the Delhi government in deploying 10 mobile testing labs for COVID with a total capacity of 20,000 tests in a phased manner beginning next week.
“Five RT-PCR labs, including at AIIMS-Delhi, have already started functioning round the clock,” said the spokesperson. The ICMR is also helping in augmenting capacity by 2,000 tests of existing Delhi labs by deploying more manpower, increasing the number of shifts and placing more equipment with the help of private sector labs.
The government is aiming to reach a testing level of 60,000 RT-PCR tests per day by November end. “Testing capacity has already been enhanced by 10,000 tests/day on November 17,” said an MHA spokesperson.
A fresh batch of Covid warriors have also been dispatched to the capital on the instructions of the home minister who has five central paramilitary forces under his charge—BSF, CRPF, SSB, ITBP, CISF. These central paramilitary forces, led by the ITBP, have been in the forefront of the war against Covid by providing medical care, isolation facilities, treatment and also assisting the health workers and doctors in tackling the pandemic surge. As many as 45 doctors and 160 para-medics from CAPFs have reached Delhi for deployment at the DRDO hospital near Delhi airport and at COVID care centre at Chhatarpur.
Remaining doctors and medics will reach Delhi in the next few days.
The home ministry on Wednesday said Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) has dispatched 250 ventilators from Bengaluru and these are expected to reach Delhi by the weekend.
The DRDO has also decided to add 250 ICU beds to its already existing 250 beds and will also be creating 35 BIPAP beds in next three or four days at its COVID hospital near Delhi airport. The ministry of health has also delivered 35 BIPAP machines to DRDO COVID facility near Delhi airport and an additional 25 BIPAP machines are being made available to the Delhi government.
Meanwhile, the Indian Railways is making available train coaches with 800 beds at Shakur Basti railway station. These COVID care-cum-isolation facilities will be manned by doctors and paramedics from central paramilitary forces.
On November 15, Shah had reviewed the Covid situation in Delhi in a high-level meeting attended by Kejriwal, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, Delhi Health minister Satyendra Jain and other central and state government officials. Prior to the slew of measures discussed at the meeting, Shah met his key advisors—Union home secretary A.K. Bhalla and Principal Secretary (Home) in Delhi government, B.S. Bhalla—who spelt out the need for a unified strategy as Delhi is facing a surge in cases once again due to greater movement of people. Shah has been micromanaging Delhi’s fight against Covid since June when the city first saw a spike in cases.
While Shah’s timely intervention in June helped Delhi tide over a crisis situation, it also drew attention to Shah’s focus on Delhi’s healthcare system that has been one of the pet projects of the Kejriwal government and has been wooing voters on a good governance plank. Once again, Shah’s timely intervention can deprive the Aam Aadmi Party of a chance to accuse the BJP government of neglecting the Delhi Covid situation. However, what remains to be seen is how successfully both the Centre and state government is able to tide over the fresh crisis.

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