Centre calls for unified strategy for Delhi-NCR; Delhi ramps up rapid tests

With 2,877 fresh infections, the total number of coronavirus cases in the national capital has reached 49,979, while the death toll climbed to 1,969

Centre said the country had one death from the disease per lakh population and the mortality rate is among the lowest as against the global average of 6.04. Photo: PTI

The Centre on Thursday (June 18) pitched for a unified strategy for Delhi and its satellite cities to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, while the city government ramped up COVID-19 diagnosis by commencing testing through the rapid antigen method.

With 2,877 fresh infections, the total number of coronavirus cases here reached 49,979, while the death toll climbed to 1,969. The national capital now has 26,669 active cases. The satellites cities of Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and Faridabad have nearly 7,630 cases and together reported 142 deaths.

While reviewing the coronavirus situation in Delhi-NCR, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the satellite cities like Gurgaon, Noida and Ghaziabad cannot be separated from the national capital in this battle. The home minister favoured a unified strategy for Delhi-NCR to tackle the coronavirus, a home ministry source said.

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Besides Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava, senior officials of NCR districts and the ministries of Home and Health and ICMR attended the meeting. Shah assured the NCR districts that the central government will provide all support to them in their fight against the coronavirus pandemic, another source said.

Delhi and its satellite cities — an urban belt sprawling across three states — have one of the highest population densities in the country. A large number of people reside in Delhi and work in the satellite cities or vice versa. The NCR comprises districts belonging to Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, the prominent ones being Gurgaon, Faridabad (both in Haryana), Gautam Buddh Nagar (Noida) and Ghaziabad (both in Uttar Pradesh).

“In view of the structure of Delhi-NCR region, all concerned bodies need to unite and work on a common strategy against the coronavirus pandemic. In this context, I met with Delhi Chief Minister and senior officials of Center and Delhi-NCR today to discuss how to evolve a strategy as soon as possible,” Shah tweeted.

On the meeting by Shah with officials of Delhi-NCR, a home ministry statement said the minister said an expert committee decided the rates for COVID-19 beds and treatment in Delhi, and these could be applied in hospitals in the NCR cities after consultations. It would be better to conduct COVID-19 testing through the new rapid antigen methodology approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which will ramp up the testing capacity and help in early diagnosis and treatment, he said.

Shah also directed officials from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana governments to submit information about COVID-19 beds, ventilators, oxygen cylinders, ICU and ambulances available with them and their plan to augment these resources by July 15 to the Union Home Ministry so that a common strategy can be devised in the NCR in the battle against the virus, the statement said.

Shah said there was a need to scale-up testing for COVID-19 and provide treatment to those found positive. The home minister also suggested that the NCR districts can consider adopting ₹2,400 charge fixed for COVID-19 testing in Delhi.

Meanwhile, the national capital commenced the new rapid antigen test at 169 centres in and around containment zones of the city. A total of 341 teams are involved in rapid antigen testing which makes results available within 30 minutes, an official said. People with mild symptoms or no symptoms at all can get themselves tested, another official said. A total of 7,040 people were tested for coronavirus of which 456 turned positive, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said. In the initial phase, tests will be conducted only on those who live in containment zones, he added.

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SG Kishan Reddy, Union Minister of State for Home, said the Centre plans to conduct six lakh rapid antigen tests at these 169 facilities. Delhi currently has 431 ventilators and the central government will provide 500 more to hospitals in the city. Similarly, the Centre will provide 650 ambulances to add to the 350 that the city already has, Reddy added.

Kejriwal tweeted, “Two important things happened today. COVID-19 testing rates in Delhi have been reduced to ₹2,400 and rapid-antigen testing has started. I hope people won’t face any problem in getting themselves tested now.”

Those who came to get themselves tested at a centre in Sunlight Colony in southeast Delhi said the entire process took only about an hour. The centre started operating at 10 am and by around 5 pm 125 swab samples were collected, a healthcare worker said. A healthcare worker at the testing centre said each testing kit costs ₹450 and can provide results within 30 minutes as compared to RT-PCR test that takes three to four hours. The kits, called Standard Q COVID-19 Ag detection, have been developed by South Korean company SD Biosensor.

The testing method involves looking for antibodies which are produced when the body is exposed to a pathogen. If a person has antibodies associated with novel coronavirus, it means the person is either COVID-19 positive or has recovered. Shah has had a series of meetings with Delhi L-G Anil Baijal, Kejriwal and senior officials in the last four days to strengthen Delhi’s health infrastructure. On June 4, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to convene a meeting of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana for easing interstate movement at all borders in the NCR. It also observed that there should be a consistent policy in this regard for the NCR.

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