Just after the Delhi government asserted that the coronavirus pandemic had been "defeated" in Delhi, Covid cases in the national capital saw a dramatic rise. doctors and health experts warned that the numbers could go up in the coming months and urged people to continue to wear masks and follow Covid-19 safety norms.
Many doctors at leading healthcare facilities in New Delhi cautioned that the rise was "alarming" with an "upsurge" in the number of patients going there in the last couple of days, after the cases had shown a positive plunge for six weeks.
Delhi had recorded 94 fresh Covid-19 cases on February 16, the lowest in over nine months then. However, after a week on February 24, it more than doubled to 200 and increased further to 220 on Thursday and 256 on Friday.
Health experts and doctors on Friday attributed this "sudden rise" to complacency in people and not following Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and "assuming all is well now".
Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine at Apollo Hospital, said he "wasn't surprised" to see the rise in daily cases as so many people have thrown caution to the wind, attending parties and big social gatherings, with many of them not even wearing masks, let alone maintaining social distancing.
"The coronavirus behaviour pattern seen in the West and elsewhere tends to get seen in India, a month later, as it happened in reporting of the first case in Kerala and so on and so forth. So, if the US and UK are seeing a surge again, we should have become more watchful and not complacent. The next two months will be even more critical and I would not be surprised if the cases show a much higher upward trend," he told PTI.
Chatterjee, himself a Covid-19 survivor, lamented that people are attending birthday parties, marriages and house warming functions, with very few people wearing masks or not wearing them properly and not adhering to safety norms needed to check the spread of the virus that has a "mutant tendency" as seen in the UK.
Dr Richa Sareen, pulmonology and critical care consultant at Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, echoed Chatterjee's apprehensions.
"The surge in the last three days is alarming. From 94 cases earlier this month, it has gone up to 220 reported yesterday. At our hospital, the number of patients showing up with Covid-like symptoms or making calls to enquire after exhibiting the symptoms, has gone up. These patients had a travel history, or had just attended a marriage function or other social gathering," she said.
The senior doctor warned that cases will spiral up faster if people continue to show complacency in their behaviour and stop taking precautions.
"Travel restrictions are not there, malls and markets are open, and public transport is operational since the successive unlocks, and vaccination started in January, so many people are assuming that now all is well. And several family members and friends are meeting in a group without following Covid-appropriate behaviour. So, cases are rising," Sareen said.
The Fortis hospital doctor underlined that the "second major wave" of the pandemic is being seen in the US and UK, and Indian cities should be more watchful, particulary Delhi, after rise in case being reported in Maharashtra and Kerala.
Sareen also blamed the lack of adherence to Covid-19 safety norms to travellers, social media influencers, bloggers, posting photos and videos of their trips and shoots, many of them without masks, lulling their friends and followers into a "false sense of safety".
"These big social media influencers should show some responsibility as their acts are followed by others. Also, many people these days are travelling and posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram, from Varanasi and Goa, seen without any mask on. This affects the psyche of others and they tend to feel the situation is normal again, while it is not. We need to be more cautious and behave more responsibly if we have to combat this pandemic effectively in the long run," she said.
The Delhi government mid-February had said that it had "firmly fought the war against coronavirus".
On February 16, the city had recorded 94 cases while the positivity rate had slipped to 0.17 per cent and number of fatalities had also reduced. Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on that day had said the pandemic had been "defeated" in the national capital through a number of combative measures, including aggressive testing, home isolation and enforcement of Covid-19 safety norms.
While the number of death cases have largely remained low in the past several weeks, the daily cases, active cases, home isolation cases, and positivity rate have shown an upward trend in the last few days.
No fresh death was registered on Thursday, as per data shared by officials. This was the fourth time the single-day fatality count had been nil this month. On February 9, 13 and 17 too, no fatality had been recorded.
On Friday, the positivity rate rose to 0.41 per cent from 0.34 per cent on Thursday, while the infection tally in the city increased to 6,38,849, according to the latest health bulletin issued by the city government. The positivity rate was 0.24 per cent on February 20.
The active cases tally on Friday jumped to 1,231 from 1,169 the previous day, according to the bulletin.
(With inputs from PTI)