Delhi has reported 4,853 new coronavirus cases and 44 deaths related to the virus in the past 24 hours, data showed Tuesday night. Data also showed that 2,722 people had been discharged after treatment in the past 24 hours. The total number of COVID-19 cases recorded in the city has now crossed 3.64 lakh, of which active cases are 27,873, deaths are 6,356 and recoveries are 3.3 lakh.
This is the national capital's biggest ever single-day jump in cases and the fourth time in the past five days that the 4,000-mark has been breached. It is also the eight time in the past 10 days that over 3,000 new cases have been recorded in 24 hours - a worrying sign, especially when COVID-19 levels have shown a drastic drop nationally.
Data from the Union Health Ministry this morning showed that only 36,370 new coronavirus cases had been registered - a steep fall from the more than 70,000 cases logged just four weeks earlier.
The Health Ministry has expressed its concern about the spike in Delhi's cases and is expected to hold a meeting with top officials on Thursday to discuss prevention and suppression measures.
"What is worrying is the cumulative positivity rate of 8.06 per cent. New cases and positivity rate have to be seen in tandem. When you look at these two together, questions are raised. How many tests are being conducted? How many are RT-PCR and how many are antigen? Those who are symptomatic negatives in antigen... are they all being retested through RT-PCR? If not are they spreading the infection?" Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary, asked.
The last time Delhi crossed the 4,000-mark was about a month ago - on September 19. Three days prior, the city reported its highest-ever daily jump - 4,473 cases - a mark that has now been beaten.
The unwanted record spike comes amid rising concern over a new wave of infections coinciding with an extended festive season and the onset of winter. Medical experts have suggested that the COVID-19 virus could become even deadlier as the temperature drops.
The increase in Covid cases has also been linked to worsening pollution in the national capital, which is preparing for its annual bout with "severe" and "hazardous" air quality levels, with emissions from vehicles, dust from roads and construction and pollutants from the burning of farm wastes and stubble from neighbouring Haryana and Punjab among the major culprits.
Last week Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, while appealing to people to not burst firecrackers or burn effigies of Ravana during Dussehra (which was on Sunday), identified pollution and COVID-19 as the "biggest 'rakshas' (evils) of today". The appeal fell somewhat flat, with AQI levels the following day plummeting to "severe" in parts of the national capital.
The Delhi government has launched a number of campaigns to control the national capital's air quality which has deteriorated drastically since last month.
On Monday the central government told the Supreme Court it would create a permanent body through legislation to deal with the annual air pollution problem in Delhi and surrounding areas.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and others, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, have urged people to be cautious about celebrating festivals at this time, reminding them of the importance of staying at home as far as possible and wearing face masks and maintaining social distance when it is necessary to leave home.
India has reported over 79.4 lakh cases since the pandemic began in December last year, of which 6.25 lakh are active cases and 1.19 lakh are deaths linked to the virus.