Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday announced the setting up of a paediatric taskforce and two genome sequencing labs as well as a plan to ramp up oxygen capacity to prepare for a possible third Covid wave that could peak at 37,000 cases a day.
The government will also create a buffer stock of important medicines, Kejriwal said at an online briefing.
The two genome sequencing labs to identify variants of the virus attacking the city will come up at the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital and the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), the chief minister said.
The genome sequencing lab will be made functional in the Lok Nayak hospital in two to three months' time, a government statement said. "Genome sequencing labs are being created. So that we also know about the variant that comes to Delhi, whether it is an old one or a new variant has emerged and then we can ask experts what precautions we need to take," he said.
Kejriwal said he chaired two different meetings with experts as well as officers who were working during the coronavirus situation.
The government had formulated two committees on May 27 and carried out detailed discussions with them on Friday.
"Experts are saying that a third wave is bound to emerge, but nobody has any information on when such a wave will arrive and how dangerous it can be.
It is our duty to be prepared so that if a third wave does arrive and turns out to be extremely dangerous, the government should be prepared," he said.
At the peak of the second wave, Delhi recorded 28,000 cases on April 20. "On basis of this figure, we estimated how high the next peak might be. After our discussions, it was concluded that we should prepare for a peak of 37,000 cases per day. This, however, does not mean that if the peak goes beyond this figure, we will not be prepared. We are ready for even that, but if you are prepared on a base of 37,000 corona cases, then even if we cross the limit, we will be prepared for it," he said.
The calculations on the number of beds, ICU beds, beds for children, oxygen requirement and medicines will be made keeping in mind the figure of 37,000 cases, he said.
Delhi faced a huge shortage of oxygen, Kejriwal said, adding that after the intervention of the Supreme Court and with the support of the central government, they did get oxygen.
The government is buying 25 oxygen tankers and installing 64 small oxygen plants in the next one or two months to ensure Delhi doesn't face another oxygen crisis as it did during the second wave, he said.
"We also faced a shortage of oxygen tankers. Since Delhi is not an industrial state, we don't have oxygen tankers. Therefore, 25 oxygen tankers are being bought so that if we face a problem then we have our oxygen tankers.
"We don't want to face such a situation should another wave arrive. Therefore, preparations have been made, a storage capacity of 420 tonnes of oxygen is being readied. We've held talks with Indraprastha Gas Limited and they have been asked to prepare a 150 metric tonne oxygen production plant, for which they have said that it will take 18 months," the chief minister added.
According to officials, the tankers will have a capacity of 350 MT and will be procured by the Health Department to ensure timely pick up of liquid medical oxygen from manufacturing sources and for inter-city distribution.
The Delhi government will also ensure the generation of 150 MT of oxygen and refilling of 2,000 cylinders.
An adequate number of cylinders will be procured to ensure that sufficient quantity is available in case of crisis and bed escalation.
To prevent hoarding, cylinders will be live-tracked with the help of QR Code tracking, the officials said.
The government has created a separate paediatric task force which will decide how many oxygen beds will have to be reserved for children and how many ICU beds are to be reserved for them.
"For children, different types of equipment will be required, different masks, different oxygen masks. The pediatric task force formed yesterday will give its recommendations separately," Kejriwal said.
Besides, the government will also create a buffer stock of important medicines, keeping in mind the expiry date of every medicine, and private hospitals will also be given instructions to do so, he said.
It was seen that a lot of medicines were being prescribed on WhatsApp and once these medicines were being said to be effective, the situation would become chaotic, the chief minister said.
"So, a team of doctors and experts will be set up. If there is a demand for a particular medicine then doctors will examine and inform whether it will be beneficial in treating Covid or not.
"If doctors approve, the government will try to commission that medicine and if doctors say it is not necessary and that people should stop running after the medicine then the public will be made aware of it," he added.
The officials said that efforts have been made to increase ICU beds in Delhi government hospitals.
From 1,830 in April this year, beds have been increased to 3,100 till June and Covid beds have been increased from 5,221 to 7,978 during the same period.
The government has also created new Community Health Centres in partnership with several NGOs.
On May 27, the Delhi government set up a 13-member panel to prepare an action plan for a possible third wave after assessing the current status and projected requirement of health infrastructure such as hospitals, oxygen plants and drug supplies.