Gurugram battles third wave

 thehindu.com  11/22/2020 19:09:30 

With the third wave of novel coronavirus hitting the Millennium City a couple of weeks ago amid festive rush, the district administration has responded to the situation by increasing testing and augmenting the number of hospital beds.

Several police teams have been constituted to ensure adherence to COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures at banquet and wedding halls, and health teams are conducting random testing at crowded places.

Almost five months after the second wave hit in May-end, Gurugram  the worst-hit district in Haryana in terms of total COVID-19 cases  saw a sudden surge in daily infections ahead of Dusshera. The trend has continued.

Sharp spike

The district recorded an average of 250-300 cases for the first 20 days in October, but the number jumped to 300-400 per day between October 21 and 30. On October 31, Gurugram recorded 498 cases, followed by 529 on November 1.

On November 21, the city reported 939 fresh cases  the highest single-day spike since the pandemic began.

Chief Medical Officer (Gurugram) Virender Yadav said cases spiked across the country due to the festive rush. It was expected. The country witnessed a second wave soon after lockdown restrictions were eased and markets, public transport and offices began to open. The people have also lowered their guard. No one seems to be interested in adhering to the three basic principles of fighting the virus: social distancing, wearing a mask and washing hands, said Mr. Yadav.

In a bid to ensure sufficient beds for treatment of the infected, the district recently ordered public and private hospitals in Gurugram to reserve 50% of all beds in the general category and 75% of all beds in the ICU/ventilator category for COVID-19 patients. While bed availability is fast shrinking in neighbouring Delhi, Gurugram remains comfortably placed with 1,380 isolation beds, 168 ICU beds and 85 ventilators vacant in various city hospitals as on November 22, according to the Haryana government portal. A total of 2,680 beds, including 575 in critical care, are reserved for COVID-19 patients.

Mr. Yadav added that availability of beds was not a concern since only around 5% of patients required hospitalisation and 2% needed critical care. Of the 5,693 active cases in the city, 5,264 are in home isolation, as per the November 22 health bulletin.

Increased testing

The district has also managed to double the number of RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) to around 6,000 a day, up from 3,000 a month ago. Gurugram tested 10,200 samples on November 21, a new high in per day testing in Haryana. The district health department conducted 5,700 RT-PCR and 4,500 random mass Rapid Antigen Tests. Gurugram has the highest testing in Haryana with a total of 4,52,860 tests. At present, we are concentrating on increasing testing in Gurugram, Faridabad, Hisar and Rohtak, where the cases are much higher. With these levels of testing as being done in Gurugram, we will quickly isolate the positive cases and bring down the positivity rate. We have set a target of 30,000 tests for the State everyday, Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Rajeev Arora told The Hindu.

The health department plans to conduct random RAT at crowded places such as metro stations, shopping malls, vegetable markets and toll plazas.

To make testing more affordable, Haryana on October 29 reduced charges for RT-PCR from 1,200 to 900, and RAT from 650 to 500. Mr. Yadav said the price caps were only applicable to Haryana-based labs.

Director of Department of Transfusion Medicine (Medanta Hospital) Aseem Kumar Tiwari said the demand for plasma at the hospital has nearly doubled in the past one week. So far, 1,372 units of blood plasma have been collected at Medanta, catering to 759 patients, Dr. Tiwari said. He added that the hospital charged 5,500 per unit for blood plasma and insisted on a donor, but was not very adamant about it.

Plasma donation

District Administration Plasma Donation Core Group member Lovleen Kumar Satija said the response to plasma donation was lukewarm as donors were reluctant, fearing weakness and contraction of infection. I have a list of patients who have recovered from the virus. I send them bulk messages everyday requesting plasma donation, but few people respond. Only 250 people have donated plasma since the bank was set up by the administration in collaboration with the Rotary Club on July 29. The price per unit of blood plasma is 8,500 at the Rotary Club, said Mr. Satija.

Mr. Yadav, however, said the Indian Council of Medical Research had on November 17 advised against indiscriminate use of Convalescent Plasma Therapy, stating that trials across 39 public and private hospitals in the country and similar studies in China and Netherlands had not documented any significant benefit of the therapy.

Gurugram Police has also intensified its drive against those not wearing masks in public places and has issued fines to 22,817 people since October 20. So far, 89,582 people have been penalised for not wearing masks.

The owners of the banquet and wedding halls need to inform the local police station about upcoming events. Legal action, including sealing of premises, will be taken in case of any violation, said Gurugram Police spokesperson Subhash Boken.

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