Dr Guleria told TOI that the spurt in cases in states such as Maharashtra and Kerala called for strict surveillance. “With trains and flights operating in near-full capacity, public movement has increased across states. Therefore, there is a heightened risk of the disease spreading again in the national capital from affected regions,” he said.
The AIIMS director added that it might not be prudent to limit public movement at this stage but the health authorities must step up surveillance to identify new clusters, if any. “We do not know if the increase in cases in states such as Maharashtra is due to a new variant of novel coronavirus. But that possibility cannot be ruled out. So if there is any cluster, it will be worthwhile to randomly put some of the samples through genetic testing.”
After reporting the first Covid case on March 2 last year, the capital had seen a sharp spike in cases, and even more deaths, in June and November. However, over the past two months, there has been a steady decline in both. On Tuesday, Delhi recorded 145 fresh cases and two fatalities, while the positivity rate stood at 0.25%.
Maharashtra and Kerala, on the other hand, reported 6,218 and 4,034 new Covid cases in the last 24 hours. “Next few weeks are going to be crucial for Delhi. If the data suggests an increase in the positivity rate, it will reaffirm the apprehension of newer strains causing a surge once again. Increased public movement and lack of adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour could be the culprits too,” said another senior doctor.
Since February 1, there has been relaxation in social, religious, sports, entertainment and educational activities in the capital.
Dr Lalit Kant, former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at Indian Council of Medical Research, said fewer people were following Covid-appropriate behaviour, i.e, wearing a mask, washing hands and maintaining physical distance. “A significant percentage of our population remains vulnerable to the infection. Also, we have new strains in circulation. If we let our guards down, there is a possibility of increase in cases once again,” he told TOI recently. Dr Kant stressed on the need to keep up the testing numbers.
“We need to go back to where we began. The daily testing has to be ramped up. Contact tracing and containment of areas most affected by the outbreak have to be pursued effectively. There is no scope at all to become complacent because the pandemic hasn’t ended yet,” Dr S K Sarin, director of Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, said.