Intensive care beds full as COVID rises in Indian capital, weekend festival worrisome

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By Neha Arora and Devjyot Ghoshal

NEW DELHI, Nov. 12 (Reuters) – After her 92-year-old grandmother began to cough and her blood oxygen levels fell, Varunn Kaushik took her to two of New York’s top private hospitals on Monday. Delhi. Neither welcomed her, even after one of them found her positive for COVID-19.

Kaushik said several other hospitals had told him and his family over the phone that they had free beds, but not in the intensive care units (ICUs) his grandmother needed. He finally admitted her to a non-ICU COVID bed at a government hospital, 10 hours after leaving home.

His condition was stable Thursday, according to Kaushik.

The family ordeal is a warning sign for a city where infections are on the rise even if they are falling elsewhere in the country.

The 20 million people of Delhi are celebrating their biggest festival this weekend, Deepavali or Diwali. Despite a ban, thousands of fireworks are likely to be set off, increasing already bad air pollution and increasing the risk posed by COVID-19. The capital reported 8,593 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, its highest daily tally to date. The average pollution reading was 299 on Thursday on a scale of 500, where any number above 300 is classified as very low and can cause respiratory illness.

The city’s intensive care facilities are so scarce that some hospitals are putting more beds in existing wards before the weekend.

“We are fighting the fires because Diwali looks like a super spreader event in front of us and the public just doesn’t see the threat,” a senior Delhi health department official said, declining to be named.

New Delhi’s sprawling bazaars are teeming with shoppers ahead of Diwali and wedding season after the government loosened regulations in a bid to bring the lockdown-hit economy to life. Wearing a mask is common, but social distancing is not, and infections may increase in the coming days.

The city was one of the first in the country to revive economic activity after the lockdown that began in March, leaving restaurants, malls and other businesses to restart to avoid rising unemployment.

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India has so far reported around 8.6 million coronavirus infections – the second highest in the world after the United States – and 127,571 deaths. But overall, it has added fewer and fewer cases every day since a peak in mid-September, and its death toll of 92 per million people is well below the global total of 160 and states 711. -United.

Still, India’s state-run Medical Research Council says the recent nationwide drop in cases could be reversed if there was a resurgence in infections around Diwali.

Federal authorities have asked the local government in the capital to prepare resources to process up to 15,000 cases per day and perform more aggressive testing.

More than half of the city’s 16,511 COVID hospital beds were occupied as of Wednesday, according to government data, with more than 24,000 other patients isolating themselves at home. There is no separate data for ICU beds.

The Delhi government has said hundreds of additional beds have been reserved for COVID-19 patients in nearly two dozen private and government hospitals. More than 100 intensive care beds are also added at government facilities.

“Most of the cases are from working class people, between the ages of 20 and 50, very active people,” Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain told Reuters partner ANI, indicating that these victims might not need critical care.

He did not respond to questions emailed from Reuters.

All of the intensive care beds at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, one of the city’s top private hospitals, are now occupied, said Dhiren Gupta, senior pulmonologist.

At the government-run Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, doctors packed beds in intensive care units to the nearest allowable limit.

“We have increased the number of beds, but the distance and ventilation are limited,” said Desh Deepak, senior pulmonologist. “We are operating at full capacity in the ICUs.”

Kaushik’s grandmother’s experience has left him worried about himself and the rest of his family, as they wait to be tested for the coronavirus themselves.

“God forbid, if someone else needs hospitalization … what would happen two days later?” he said. “It’s even scarier.”

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