Union health ministry today said that the country is ready to face any “exponential rise” in the number of Coronavirus cases and has, as of now, nearly 63 times the number of hospital beds at its disposal as is required to treat present COVID-19 cases.
Luv Agarwal, spokesperson for the ministry of health and family welfare, said India has increased the number of hospital beds available to treat COVID-19 patients to 105,980, even though the current requirement is only around 1,671 beds. The number of available beds will continue to be increased, the joint secretary said.
He said this is being done keeping in mind the tendency of COVID-19 to suddenly increase its numbers in an exponential fashion.
“This is important, because in case of this epidemic, there can always be an exponential rise, and as a country, we need to be prepared for that,” he said.
The total number of cases in India has zoomed from around 500 when the national lock-down was imposed to about 8,500 at present — a 17-fold jump in 18 days.
If the numbers continue to increase at this pace, India can see 1 lakh COVID-19 patients before the end of April.
Asked if that was a possibility — especially given possible relaxations in the lock-down going forward — Luv Agarwal did not give a clear answer, but said people will have to observe social distancing norms even if the lock-down is eased in coming days.
According to the official numbers given by Agarwal, India added 909 new cases in the 24 hours up to 2:30 PM today, taking the total COVID-19 cases in India to 8,356. A total of 273 people have died.
However, according to crowd-sourced data, another 440 cases have already been added in the 3.5 hours since then, and the total number of cases currently stands at 8,783.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in India is likely to hit the 9000 mark by end of day today. According to crowd-sourced data, Maharashtra is likely to breach the 2,000 patient mark today, while Delhi is likely to reach close to 1,200 by the end of the day, and Tamil Nadu is likely to go above 1,000.
Further elaborating on the strategy to deal with a possible spurt in the number of cases, Agarwal said various private entities — including companies like Apollo Healthcare and Max Hospitals — have set apart units and buildings that has helped push up the number of COVID-19 beds to 1.06 lakh.
This number also includes 9,000 beds in various military hospitals, while another 7,000 beds are available on standby with the defence forces, he said.
The Indian Railways has promised 20,000 beds on trains, out of which 5,000 beds are being readied in the first phase. As of yesterday, the Indian Railways had converted about 3,500 railway coupes into hospital beds.
Agarwal said the experience so far suggested that 80% of the COVID-19 cases show only mild or no symptoms, and do not need hospital care.
Out of the remaining 20%, those with moderate symptoms will be treated in regular hospitals, while those with further complications will be moved to dedicated COVID facilities with intensive care units.
Yesterday, the ministry had said that the government has ordered 49,000 ventilators.
Meanwhile, sources indicated that Coronavirus continued to spread to new areas, and COVID-19 cases are now found in 364 districts in India, or more than half the country. 80 of these districts reported their first cases in the last four days.