Karnataka to begin random testing for COVID-19

Published : June 18, 2020 17:38 IST

Vendors of vegetables and fruits under the flyover on Mysore Road in Bengaluru, in May. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Considering the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Karnataka, and particularly in Bengaluru, the Health and Family Welfare Department has issued a circular on conducting widespread random testing in the State. The circular states that “random testing using RT-PCR pooled sample technique” will be done on priority for three categories of persons, “slum dwellers; vendors/bill collectors etc. in malls, super markets, markets & footpaths; and delivery boys of food chains and couriers” (sic). The logic behind reaching out to these categories of people was that they were “likely to come in contact with maximum number of persons”.

Within these groups, preference will be given to people who are vulnerable such as persons who are more than 50 years and have comorbidities, stated the letter from Additional Chief Secretary Jawaid Akhtar. The circular has also left the choice of people over and above the identified categories and locations for testing to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and district administrations.

The circular comes at a time when Bengaluru witnessed its highest spike in a single day, of 55 cases, on June 17. Of this number, 15 had ILI (Influenza like Illness) while 18 had SARI (Severe Acute Respiratory Infection). The Health Department’s focus on testing patients with ILI and SARI symptoms is throwing up a slew of COVID-19 cases whose contacts cannot be traced but who, in turn, are infecting other people. For instance, four contacts of a 38-year-old man who tested positive on June 11 have now been diagnosed with COVID-19.

In another circular, the Health Department has mandated private hospitals to not only notify health authorities in case any patient is admitted with COVID-19 symptoms but to also continue treatment in the same hospital. The circular added an explanation for this stating that “it has been noticed that private hospitals are referring all ILI/SARI cases to COVID hospitals once the COVID positivity is reported. This is leading to an interruption and delay in the treatment of COVID-19 patients and causing an increase in mortality.”