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Individual awareness and hygiene will be key as people return to work and socializing in metropolitan cities.  (Photo: Ajay Aggarwal/HT)
Individual awareness and hygiene will be key as people return to work and socializing in metropolitan cities. (Photo: Ajay Aggarwal/HT)

Health infra at risk of a surge in infections as India unlocks

  • Experts warn of a contagion risk at six metros, which already account for most of the cases
  • A total of 109,462 patients have been cured so far, taking the recovery rate in India to 48.27%

NEW DELHI : The top six metros—Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad—are at risk of seeing a surge in covid-19 cases following the relaxation of lockdown norms to revive economic activity, experts warned.

Metros are home to a majority of offices, businesses, large hotels and restaurant chains, which means the virus may spread faster as people return to work and socializing. The union health ministry has issued standard operating procedures for operating public and semi-public environments, such as offices, religious places, shopping malls, hotels and restaurants. But individual awareness and hygiene will be key.

“Metropolitan cities are the hub of businesses, industries, corporate offices. Also, the population of these states is large. As the country will open up, there will be more mobility of people that was stopped due to the lockdown so far. Public transport will come back to normal, leading to crowding. Restaurants will attract people for dining. Religious places will be the highest risk, and should be avoided at all costs," said Dr Jugal Kishore, member of the government’s rapid response team for covid-19, and head, department of community medicine, Safdarjung Hospital.

The country has already recorded 240,000 positive cases, with urban centres contributing the most to the covid-19 caseload.

“The epidemic started from these areas and, thereafter, moved to smaller cities. Now, the possibility of infection will further increase," said Kishore.

While the government urged citizens to follow the guidelines to break the chain of transmission while socializing, public health experts said the decision to open up has pushed India’s health infrastructure to the brink.

While Maharashtra has been topping the chart with the most number of cases and deaths, Delhi, at the second spot in terms of active cases, is emerging as the most vulnerable with an increasing caseload.

Union health minister Harsh Vardhan also expressed concerns on Thursday over the rising cases and deaths in the national capital, besides low testing and high positivity.

“As India unlocks, the real test begins. Delhi in the last week or so has climbed up to the second spot in terms of active cases and, unfortunately, is also seeing a spike in death rate," said Himanshu Sikka, lead, health, IPE Global, an international healthcare development consultancy.

“While it took almost 65 days for Delhi to move from 100 to 25,000 cases, one won’t be surprised if the next 25,000 are added in the next 10 days, or mid-July. We are looking at dire consequences, and the capital’s public health system will go through a real test now," Sikka added.

The health ministry said 5,355 covid-19 patients were cured in the past 24 hours, taking the total number to 109,462, with a national recovery rate of 48.27%. At present, India has 110,960 active cases, and all were under active medical supervision. Thus far, 43,86,379 samples have been tested across 727 government and private labs.

As of Friday, India had 299,053 isolation beds, 32,376 ICU beds and 118,059 oxygen-supported beds across 957 dedicated covid-19 hospitals and 2,362 covid health centres, besides another 703,786 beds at quarantine facilities and covid care centres.

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