Delhi Heart and Lung Institute's Head of Pulmonology, Dr Bharat Gopal, points out that hospitalisations have increased in the last three days of patients with low oxygen saturation levels. These patients were found to have been suffering from COVID-19 for the past five-six days.
"Anyone suspecting Covid infection should get a test done, especially if they are elderly and suffering from multiple ailments," advises Gopal. "They must also watch their oxygen levels at home."
If the oxygen level falls and condition worsens, the patient should immediately reach a hospital where adequate measures can be taken.
Dr G C Khilnani, Chairman of the PSRI Institute of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine told TOI there was no need to panic, but there was cause for caution as each variant of the coronavirus has been behaving differently from the others.
"I am seeing a much larger number of patients than earlier and some also have typical symptoms such as complete loss of smell and taste," said Khilnani, adding that present treatment of the infection was largely supportive care.
However, the elderly and those with compromised immunity should be considered for antiviral medication under the advice of a doctor, and monitor their oxygen saturation. Indian Spinal Injuries Centre's Dr Rajkumar strongly advised a hospital visit if symptoms like chest pain and difficulty in breathing manifested.
"People above 50 years with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and weakened immune systems are at higher risk. They are currently coming to the hospital with oxygen level below 90 and severe cough after self-medication over five or more days of illness and only after their condition deteriorated," Dr Rajkumar said.
Cases of COVID-19 have been rising across the country, with India reporting 10,158 cases on Thursday. The new cases over the last 24 hours are a 29.7% increase from the 7,830 cases reported on Wednesday.
In the national capital, there has been a steady increase in the past weeks in the number of COVID-19 patients on oxygen. On April 11, 54 patients were on oxygen support, while on April 1, only 29 such patients were admitted in hospitals.
"The present variant is highly infectious, infecting people who were previously vaccinated. In other words, vaccination may not provide protection against infection, but it is surely preventing mortality," Dr. Sandeep Budhiraja, group medical director, Max Healthcare, and senior director, Institute of Internal Medicine, told TOI.
Dr Budhiraja advised vulnerable populations to get tested and consult their doctor in the event of cold cough and/fever.