The Tamil Nadu government on Monday announced total lockdown from June 19-30 in Chennai and three neighbouring districts, which together have accounted for nearly 84 per cent of the 44,661 Covid-19 cases in the State so far, while Delhi, where the worsening health crisis saw an all-party meeting convened by Home Minister Amit Shah, shied away from yet another strict lockdown.

The meeting, in which Shah was seen making a fervent plea to political parties to work together to combat the pandemic, discussed measures to augment hospitals in the national capital with an additional 17,000 beds and ramp up the number of tests to an all-India high of 18,000 per day. After the meeting, the Home Minister tweeted: “Met all the political parties in Delhi in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic. I urge everyone to forget differences and work for people’s interests under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. All-party consensus will encourage faith among the people and provide an impetus to the fight against coronavirus.”

Delhi, with 41,182 confirmed cases, is next only to Maharashtra (1,07,958) and Tamil Nadu (44,661).

Pushed into a corner with a snub from the Supreme Court last week on the deteriorating pandemic situation in the Capital, ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had already held a round of meetings with the Home Minister on Sunday. Kejriwal dismissed suggestions of yet another strict lockdown in Delhi, stating: “Many people are speculating whether another lockdown in Delhi is being planned. There are no such plans.”

AAP MP Sanjay Singh, who attended the all-party meeting on Monday morning, defended the Delhi government’s performance and said: “The level of preparedness in Delhi is high. We are doing the maximum number of tests, 15,000 per day, almost double than the second highest being done in Tamil Nadu. Even now 46 per cent of the hospital beds are empty.” He said plans are in place to further augment the existing facilities and to rope in NGOs, NCC, NSS cadets and political party workers to help hospital staff at the forefront of the Covid-19 struggle. “We will add 1,900 additional beds in hospitals run by the Delhi Government, 2,000 more in Central Government hospitals, 4,000 beds in hotels and 8,000 beds through railway coaches,” said Singh.

Meanwhile, Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta said that on their demand for waiving off 50 per cent of charges on testing, the Home Minister promised to set up a committee to cap charges in private hospitals.

The Congress blamed the State and Union governments for their failure to contain the pandemic in Delhi. Its State president Anil Chaudhary said Kejriwal had misled the people and held private hospitals responsible for the problems faced by patients. “We have submitted evidence to the Home Minister,” he said.

Study: ICMR distances itself

Meanwhile, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) distanced itself from a study, which it funded, as the yet-to-be-published study argued that health infrastructure in the country is ill-equipped to deal with the pandemic after November.

In a tweet. ICMR clarified that it does not reflect its official position and was not carried out by the health research body. Interestingly, the study was funded by ICMR and two of the co-authors of the study, published in medRxiv --- a portal for publishing of studies that are not published in scientific journals --- are affiliated to it.

The study claimed that in the event of an eight-week lockdown, the peak of the epidemic will shift by 34 to 76 days. Even if the lockdown was effective up to 60 per cent with intensified public health measures, the current dedicated resources such as isolation beds, ICU beds and ventilators are adequate to meet the necessity till the first week of November and, thereafter, it is inadequate for 5.4 months in terms of isolation beds, 4.6 months for ICU beds and 3.9 months for ventilators.