New Delhi: Home Minister Amit Shah said on Sunday the central government would ramp up COVID-19 tests in the national capital---a development that comes as coronavirus tally touched nearly 39,000 cases and the death toll rose to over 1,200. Shah, who detailed the Centre’s plans for Delhi after a meeting with Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, said COVID-19 tests would be doubled in Delhi over the next two days and thrice in the next six days. “Tests will be started at every polling station in Delhi containment zones in a few days. Comprehensive house-to-house health survey will be done in Delhi containment zones for COVID-19 contact tracing,” Shah said. He also said the central government would provide 500 railway coaches to Delhi to supplement hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, and promised assistance with necessities such as oxygen cylinders and ventilators. Apart from Shah, Baijal and Kejriwal, those who attended the meeting include Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, members of the State Disaster Management Authority and senior officers from the Home and Health ministries. The home minister has also called a separate meeting in the evening with the mayors of Delhi’s three municipal corporations—North, South and East—and commissioners of the civic bodies to discuss the coronavirus situation in the capital. The Lieutenant Governor, Chief Minister and the Union Health Minister will also attend the evening meeting. The number of coronavirus cases in Delhi is the third highest in the country after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. There has been criticism from different quarters over the handling of COVID-19 cases in the capital, with complaints of non-availability of beds in hospitals for patients and difficulty in getting the tests done in laboratories. The Supreme Court had on Friday lashed out at the AAP government, describing as “horrific” the state of affairs in Delhi hospitals with bodies being stacked next to COVID-19 patients. Taking note of the “gravity” of the COVID-19 situation, the Delhi High Court has also directed the AAP government and the Centre to increase the number of beds and ventilators for the coronavirus patients. After the Supreme Court observation, the Arvind Kejriwal-led government said it accepts with utmost respect and sincerity the apex court’s remarks and pointed out that it was trying its best to set up better infrastructure and provide quality healthcare to all COVID-19 patients in the city. Baijal has also formed a six-member panel to formulate a COVID management plan and suggest ways to ramp up medical infrastructure in the capital. This comes close on the heels of Baijal’s recent assertions on hospital beds and testing, and overturning of two Delhi government orders—reserving hospital beds only for residents of Delhi and testing of only symptomatic patients. The members on Baijal’s advisory committee are ICMR DG Balram Bhargava, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria, National Disaster Management Authority members Krishna Vatsa, Kamal Kishore and others. India saw the highest single-day spike of 11,929 novel coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking the number of infections to over 3.20 lakh on Sunday, while the toll crossed the 9,000 mark with 311 more deaths, the Health Ministry said.
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