Gym owners and trainers hold banners as they stage a protest on the outskirts of Amritsar demanding that the government allow them to open their fitness centres, after it eased a nationwide lockdown.  Photo: AFP

With India getting the dubious distinction of third spot among countries adding the most Covid-19 cases, it also has a little to smile about.

Commercial capital Mumbai is witnessing a steady rise in the time it takes for the number of Covid-19 patients to double.

Mumbai, a key driver of India’s growth, is the worst affected city, ahead of the national capital Delhi, accounting for 51,100 of the Maharashtra state’s 91,000 cases. Along with its suburbs, Mumbai has more than 65,000 Covid-19 cases, compared with about 30,000 for Delhi.

It now takes 23 days for cases to double in Mumbai, compared with about 14.5 days in mid-May and fewer than 10 days in April. Optimists see it as a sign of success for the officers battling the pandemic in one of the most densely populated and industrial cities.

Still, the absolute number of cases is rising and plenty of work remains to contain the outbreak.

Delhi, in contrast, is battling not only the growing number of cases but also an influx of patients from neighboring states and conflict with the state’s managers. The state government has often complained of being hamstrung by the overlapping power structure that involves the central government and its representative Lt Governor as the head of the state.

Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia yesterday sounded an alarm that the capital could see a surge in cases over the next two months. By June 30, the state could see as many as 100,000 Covid-19 patients, which could surge to 250,000 by mid-July and double by the end of July to almost 550,000. The state would need to ramp up its capacity of beds 10 times to 80,000.

Delhi’s Health Minister Satyendra Jain said in Delhi that the rise in cases could be attributed to a likely community spread. He said more than half of the patients had no clue where they caught the virus.

Some prominent doctors have alluded to community spread in Delhi but any official declaration of community spread has to be done by the central government after an investigation. The Indian government hasn’t commented on it.

Being the national capital and a thriving business centre gets Delhi global travelers, which in recent times included carriers of Covid-19. Being the beneficiary of national resources got the city some of the top medical research institutions and hospitals. This also attracts critically ill patients from nearby states. Jain estimates between 50% and 70% of patients in Delhi hospitals are from outside the state.

To boost its preparation to combat the pandemic, Delhi took over several hotels to be used to house patients and is scouting to take charge of sports fields, large indoor and outdoor stadiums and exhibition centers.

Mumbai took most of these measures more than a month back. It took control of 80% of the beds of private hospitals, and created facilities to house patients at makeshift facilities at sports complexes and exhibition centers. As of now, only four out of 24 administrative zones in Mumbai city had cases doubling in fewer than 14 days.

A key element in Mumbai’s success is the government’s “chase the viru”’ policy, of testing, tracing and isolation. Then, it divided the city in five zones, assigning senior officers to each zone for faster deployment of medical facilities.

Mumbai has so far carried out 17,293 tests per million people, compared with 12,225 per million in Delhi, and 3,136 by Bangalore. In absolute numbers, Mumbai has carried out 225,000 tests, a shade behind Delhi’s 232,000, according to the Mumbai municipality.

In terms of the fatality rate, Maharashtra stands fifth among states with a rate of 3.58%, compared with the national rate of 2.80%. Gujarat at 6.23%, West Bengal 4.70%, Madhya Pradesh 4.30% and Telangana 3.75% are the top four, according to The Print.

Any success of controlling the virus in Mumbai and Delhi will be the key to India’s victory over the pandemic. India is sixth globally with about 277,000 cases and could soon climb to the fourth spot behind the US, Brazil, Russia, overtaking Spain and the UK.