Delhi has reported 11,659 Covid-19 cases – the second-highest in the country thus far – after Mumbai. It also recorded its highest surge with 571 new cases on May 21. It has reported more than 500 cases each in the last three days (500 on 19th May and 534 on 20th May).
Delhi was unlucky with its initial rise in cases, linked to two major events – the inflow of passengers from other countries in February-March and the Nizamuddin Markaz event which accounted for at least 1,080 cases in the national capital.
But despite a high number of cases, what is startling is the corresponding number of deaths! Delhi has reported just 194 deaths so far and has one of the lowest Mortality Rates not only amongst major cities in India but in the world.
This is remarkable keeping in mind that the Union and Delhi government both, have considerably eased norms in the national capital post Lockdown 3.
Creative 1: Mortality Rate Delhi vs Indian cities
As per data updated till May 20, Delhi is second only to Chennai in Mortality Rate amongst major cities in India. But the national capital is three and a half times the size and double the population of Chennai and thus its efforts in controlling the number of deceased stand out.
Delhi’s Mortality Rate of just 1.59 is also amongst the lowest when compared with some of the major cities around the world. Just for perspective, it is 14 times lower than Brussels, 13 times than London, 12 times Bergamo and 10 times Rio de Janiero. It is even better than Berlin which was hailed as a model for containment of deaths due to Covid-19.
Creative 2: Mortality Rate – major cities of the world
Along with the low Mortality Rate, Delhi also has a very low Death Rate (DR) per 1 lakh people. Its DR of 0.88 is better than Kolkata (1.13), Mumbai (3.92), Ahmedabad (7.38) and Pune (3.09) amongst others. Of course, it can be argued that Delhi’s large population gives it a lower DR. But DR is also a function of the number of deaths so it is to Delhi’s credit that in spite of the large population it has managed to control the number of the deceased (unlike Mumbai).
5,192 people have recovered in Delhi which implies that its Recovery Rate (RR) of 47% is amongst the highest in comparison to other major cities in India. Just for perspective, Mumbai has a RR of 19.1%, Ahmedabad (33.8%), Chennai (25%) and Kolkata (36.6%). Compared to major states, Maharashtra has a RR of 26%, Tamil Nadu (45%), Gujarat (42%), Uttar Pradesh (59%), West Bengal (37%), Karnataka (38%) and Andhra Pradesh (63%).
“If the recovery rate is high and death rate low, the disease will not be as scary. Delhi’s recovery rate is high. People are contracting the disease but are also recovering,” stated the Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal recently.
Delhi had also conduced 1,50,282 Covid-19 tests by the 20th of May which meant that it was conducting 7,585 tests per million people – amongst the highest in India (compared to other states). Coupled with this is its Tests/Death ratio of 854 – higher than the national average of 762.
How has the Delhi administration prevented the loss of lives in the capital despite a surge in cases?
Sources in the Delhi Government give credit to the healthcare system and its preparedness in treating the patients. The Chief Minister said that Delhi had boosted the medical facilities to accommodate the rush of patients by adding more beds and ventilators and making sure there were enough PPE kits for the staff. Eight private and six government hospitals are designated to treat Covid-19 patients in Delhi.
“Our focus is on bringing down the Death Rate. If you look at the figures in Delhi, the rate is already low. There are close to 1,800 people admitted in hospitals and of those only about 150 are in a serious condition. I am personally tracking the progress of each,” Kejriwal told a TV news channel on 19th May.
However, recent reports have claimed that the Delhi administration is under-reporting the number of deceased due to Covid-19. There is a mis-match between the number of deaths reported and the cumulative numbers from the hospitals –this was first highlighted in a news report on the 8th of May in The National Herald – a paper with political affiliations to the Indian National Congress. Satyender Jain, the Delhi Health Minister stated that the discrepancy was there as many hospitals fail to send summaries when they report deaths.
The Delhi government had clarified on the 15th of May that it reports the number of deaths where the primary cause of the death is found to be Covid-19. The deaths are audited by a three-member committee formed by the government.
There also seems to be a brewing confrontation between the BJP- ruled Municipal Corporations and the Delhi Government over the number of Covid-19 deaths in the capital. The North and South Delhi Municipal Corporations claimed to have recorded 426 Covid-19 cremations at six designated burial grounds till the 16th of May.
The Delhi Government, in turn, while acknowledging the reports from both the corporations, added that neither had submitted supporting documents and reports for the bodies which they claimed had tested positive.
“The Health Bulletin reports death as declared by the Death Audit Committee. In the report submitted by the MCDs, a significant number of cases did not have the necessary documents. After studying all the reports, the number declared by the Death Audit Committee was found to be accurate,” said a government spokesperson.
On Sunday, the Kejriwal government also issued an order which stated that there was no need to test dead bodies for Covid-19 – some other states are also following this procedure which is against the guidelines of the ICMR and WHO. Experts are however, divided on testing dead bodies for Covid but insist classification of death is important.
In the days to come, the controversy over the Covid-19 deaths in Delhi will get clearer but till then it would be appropriate to take the official count as the actual count of Covid-19 deaths in the capital.
And if that holds, then credit should be given where due.