As Delhi reported more than 1,000 new Covid-19 cases for the second consecutive day, the state government on Friday ordered setting up of at least 3,350 new beds, including paid hospital and quarantine facilities in hotels, in a bid to deal with the surging number of coronavirus infections in the city.

On Friday, 1,106 new cases of Covid-19 were added to the city's tally, taking the total number of cases to 17,386. However, with the addition of 1,106 cases to Delhi's tally of 16,281 from Thursday, Friday's cases should have stood at 17,387. There was no immediate clarification from the government on the discrepancy on Friday evening. On Thursday, Delhi had crossed the key threshold of 1,000 cases on a single day for the first time, reporting 1,024 positive infections.

For the first time, the government notified five hotels to be fully used as "extended Covid hospitals" for patients with moderate symptoms such as a respiratory rate of 15 to 30 (normal is 12-20 breaths per minute) and oxygen saturation of 90-94% (normal is 95 -100%). A total of 1,000 beds are being readied in these paid facilities.

Two Delhi government hospitals with 200 beds each were also converted into dedicated Covid hospitals, adding 400 beds, in a second order. The two hospitals are Deep Chand Bandhu Hospital in Ashok Vihar-IV, Wazirpur and Satyawadi Raja Harish Chandra Hospital in Narela. Treatment here will be free, like other government facilities.

The government, in a third order, earmarked 500 beds at GTB hospital for Covid patients. Officials said 1,000 more beds as previously announced by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal will be opened in the facility at a later stage.

In a fourth order, the government set aside 1,870 rooms in 10 plush hotels as paid quarantine facilities for those with mild symptoms such as fever and upper respiratory tract infection, who do not want to isolate themselves at home.

The hotels include JW Marriot, Le Meridien and IBIS. Two of the 10 hotels—Hotel Sheraton in Saket and Hotel Surya in New Friends Colony —will also serve as extended Covid hospitals. The prices range from ₹3,100 plus taxes to ₹4,800 plus taxes per night, including three meals, depending on the hotel and room.

The government had earlier, though, offered paid quarantines facilities at a few Aerocity hotels in the initial days of the Covid-19 pandemic for those coming from abroad.

In a digital press conference on Friday, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said the government was "fully geared up" to handle more than 1,000 cases a day. "We have more than 5,000 beds for coronavirus treatment in Delhi. Out of this, 1,400 beds are in private hospitals and 3,700 in government hospitals. The number of patients currently on ventilator is 28. We have more than 300 dedicated ventilators available currently in Delhi. Our aim is to double the number of beds in the coming days against the number of patients right now," the minister said.

After Friday's orders, Delhi will have more than 6,500 Covid beds. This includes part of the 2,000 beds available in 117 private hospitals on a need basis. Before Friday's orders, only around 2,500 beds were vacant in the city.

The hotel-hospital facilities, ranging from 5-star to 3-star, have been attached to five private hospitals that will have to provide all medical services and treat patients there. In case the condition of any Covid patient admitted in these hotel-hospitals turns severe, he or she will have to be transferred to the attached hospital, the order stated.

The hotels that have been fully taken over are Hotel Crown Plaza in Okhla Phase 1 (attached to Batra hospital research centre), Hotel Sheraton in Saket (Max Smart Super Specialty hospital), Hotel Surya in New Friends Colony (Indraprastha Apollo hospital), Hotel Siddharth in Rajendra Place (Dr. BL Kapur Memorial hospital) and hotel Jivitesh at Pusa Road (Sir Ganga Ram hospital).

Covid patients opting for the hotel facility will have to pay a minimum of ₹63,000 for a 3-4 star hotel for a week's stay, which is the period mandated for patients with mild symptoms. If it is a 5-star facility, treatment for seven days would cost at least ₹70,000. In addition, if the patient needs oxygen support, ₹2,000 will be charged on a daily basis. If it is 14 days, a patient will have to spend at least ₹1.26 lakh. The price will keep on increasing, depending on the medical investigation and treatment. The hospitals will charge investigation and medical services provided at the hotels at their respective scheduled rates.

"The hotel shall provide regular hotel services, including rooms, housekeeping, disinfection and food for the patients, etc, at the price not greater than ₹5,000 for five-star hotel and ₹4,000—four/three star hotel per day per person. The linked hotel shall be paid an amount, not greater than ₹5,000 per patient per day for their medical services to Covid-19 patients inclusive of all consumables, services of doctors, nurses, paramedical staff and nursing staff etc as per norms," the order stated.

A senior government official said a mobile application and a web portal will be launched in 2-3 days to help Covid patients to check the availability of beds across all designated hospitals and choose accordingly.

To ensure asymptomatic Covid patients do not panic and choose home quarantine instead of insisting on being admitted, the Delhi government on Friday evening also aired a video on news channels, informing people about the dos and don'ts of home quarantine.

In the presser, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia had said around 80-90% of infected people are recovering in home quarantine. Some, he said, did not even need any kind of medication and recovered on their own in two weeks.

"Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has constituted a special team that calls all patients under home quarantine at least twice a day to monitor their health. Special directives have been issued for the patients, attendants, and family members of the Corona-positive patients, which are conveyed to them time and again. The home isolation period is normally 14 days, but will also depend on how strictly a patient adheres to the guidelines of home isolation as issued by the Delhi government," Sisodia said.

Patients who are asymptomatic or show mild symptoms are advised to stay in home isolation.

Dr Lalit Kant, former epidemiology and communicable diseases head at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said it is "best" for Covid patients with no symptoms or mild symptoms to be under home quarantine instead of getting admitted into a hospital or a Covid care or health centre.

"Asymptomatic patients and even those with mild symptoms are better off at their homes. Going to the hospital only increases the risk of contracting unwanted infections. Also, since you have your own toilets and beds, there is a higher degree of comfort attached with home quarantine compared to hospitals, no matter how good it is. Government centres are typically needed for the economically weaker sections who have homes so small that they cannot practise self-isolation," said Kant.

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