COVID-19 UPDATE: Karnataka

COVID-19: Surge in rural Karnataka

Print edition : June 18, 2021

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike has sealed a house with COVID-19 patients in home isolation at the BTM Layout, 2nd stage, in south Bengaluru on May 26. Photo: K. MURALI KUMAR

In Karnataka, the daily death count remains high and rural areas experience a surge even as the overall case numbers decline.

Karnataka continues to have the highest number of active cases in the country. However, there has been a significant drop in the absolute number of daily COVID-19 cases since mid-May although the high rate of death and the surge in cases in rural Karnataka continue to remain a matter of concern.

While the fall in the number of cases is attributed to the lockdown-like measures that are in place since April 27 (which have now been extended until June 7), members of the political opposition, including former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of the Congress, pointed out that the number of tests conducted every day had declined.

Until the first week of May, Bengaluru had around 70 per cent of the active cases in the State. This number dropped to 60 per cent by the second week of May and to almost 50 per cent by May 26 with the districts reporting the remaining caseload. The surge in cases in the districts is worrying as health infrastructure in rural Karnataka is inadequate when compared with Bengaluru. Deputy Chief Minister Ashwath Narayan told a television news channel: “If you look at the numbers, it [COVID-19 caseload] has been reducing drastically. Except for a few districts where the numbers are not coming down, in most of the districts and Bengaluru, the numbers have come down.”

Also read: Misplaced optimism as COVID numbers decline

Karnataka was reporting between 40,000 and 50,000 cases daily in the first two weeks of May and this number fell to between 20,000 and 25,000 in the third and fourth weeks. The total number of active cases, which had almost touched six lakh in the second week of May, hovered around four lakh in the fourth week of May. Bengaluru, which had reported 25,000 new cases in the first week, reported between 5,000 and 10,000 cases towards the end of the month. This eased the stress on the public and private health infrastructure in the city somewhat. However, the situation continues to remain serious in the city as it has more than two lakh active cases, the highest number of active cases in any city in the country.

Other districts that had more than 10,000 active cases on May 26 include Ballari, Belagavi, Bengaluru Rural, Dakshina Kannada, Hassan, Mysuru and Tumakuru. The test positivity rate in Karnataka on May 26 stood at 19.48 per cent, a decline from early May when it had almost touched 30 per cent. The case fatality rate touched almost 2 per cent in the last two weeks of May, which explains the high number of daily deaths (between 500 and 600) in the State. The shortage of vaccines forced the government to cease vaccination at government centres for those in the 18-44 age group (except for frontline workers).

Accusing the government of lapses in its vaccination strategy, the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) launched an online campaign called ‘Let Congress Vaccinate’ to create awareness about the importance of vaccination and to allow the party in Karnataka to directly procure the vaccine under its Rs.100-crore plan, an amount the party proposed to collect from its legislators’ Local Area Development funds. “The BJP has not made enough number of vaccine doses available in Karnataka, choosing to export them for its PR [public relations] gains. The consequence of this is that the health and well-being of our people have been compromised, thereby increasing the mortality rate in the State,” KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar said.

Also read: How the poor live in lockdown and pandemic

Around 700 cases of black fungus, or mucormycosis, were reported in the State in the last week of May. Health Minister K. Sudhakar told mediapersons that a “new discharge policy will be formulated to prevent black fungus infection”. “It has been found that administering steroids in the first week of treatment of COVID-19 is one of the main causes of the black fungus infection. We need to avoid this and steroids should be administered only from the second week,” he said.

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