Delhi’s 20 million residents are facing a dual health crisis as high levels of pollution are tantamount to an outbreak of the corona virus epidemic.
Twin threats have been on the rise in the city for the past week. The city is seeing its worst-ever wave since the latest daily infection was brought under control last month, with a record one-day increase of 7,830 new cases on Tuesday.
Equally destructive is the pollution that has engulfed the city in a toxic shroud for the past week and, according to doctors, will weaken people’s lungs and make them more vulnerable to the virus.
Pollution is a recurrence of last year’s crisis. Sensors at air quality monitoring stations can measure the value of 500. The index has reached 490 in the last six days. But a federal watchdog on Tuesday rated the air quality at 724. A wind quality index (AQI) is considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO) for scores between zero and 50.
Heavy smoke has obscured the city’s skyline. Residents complain of sharp eyes, cough and difficulty breathing. Doctors have advised everyone to stay indoors if possible, especially children and the elderly.
In homes, red “alert” lights have also been turned on by extremely powerful air purifiers. It may take some time before effective pollution reaches a tolerable level, only when someone opens a door or a window can they be shot again.
The causes of pollution are the same as last year and the same as in previous years: car emissions, burning of waste, construction soil and burning of fields in neighboring states. The weather has worsened the situation with enough winds to disperse the pollution.
Government employee Ashish Narang has not been out for more than a week. “We were already under house arrest due to the epidemic but we could at least go for a walk with a mask but now we can’t do that. How can we cope with the chances of avoiding our lung virus If they are already blackened and damaged by pollution, he asked.
Despite the crisis, the New Delhi government has given no indication that it is upset or scared, other than announcing a ban on firecrackers during Diwali, which is on Saturday.
Nor has any minister in Narendra Modi’s government commented on the poor air quality.
Hospitals say the number of people complaining of respiratory illnesses has increased. “Increased pollution has increased respiratory problems by about 25%,” said Dr. Vivek Nangia, head of the Institute of Respiratory and Critical Care at Max Hospital. Due to the severe shortage of beds due to the cove, he said, the hospital was dealing with these issues through telecommunications or the outpatient department.
Studies show that the weakened lungs are at increased risk for the corona virus, suggesting that the city is facing a double whammy. Virus statistics are on the rise and the New Delhi government has yet to show any signs of being able to control them.
This is like a shock to the residents as it seems that the city turned the corner last month when the daily infections were around 2500. Quarantine centers were empty and hospital beds were readily available. The worst was coming to an end.
What has changed is the relaxation of sanctions. Markets are full of shoppers, mostly wearing masks but no social distance. Diwali sees more mobility and socialization.
There is a severe shortage of beds in hospitals and stories are once again circulating among families that they drive for hours in search of hospital beds.
The Indian Medical Association says 13 of the city’s recent cohorts could be linked to air pollution.
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