K Kalyanasundaram, 60, is all set to travel to India from Singapore, when the country is staring at an impending third wave. Reason: His daughter is getting engaged in Karnataka. Vivek Chandrababu, 32, visited Nepal to celebrate his honeymoon, but came back home to Bengaluru infected with COVID-19.
“Number of COVID cases are on the rise and the increase is seen in places where there are more travellers,” Gaurav Gupta, commissioner of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) told The Quint.
Where Does Karnataka Stand?
Recent figures show that Karnataka records at least around 12,000 new cases every day, with around 9,000 from Bengaluru. As you read this, the positivity rate has already gone up by 7.77 percent in Karnataka, according to state health minister Dr K Sudhakar.
He has further stated that 146 new cases of Omicron have been confirmed in Bengaluru taking the overall tally in Karnataka to 479 as on 10 January.
While the cases are rising exponentially in the state, samples are sent in batches for genomic sequencing to find out the spread of Omicron, the latest variant that’s making waves. “Around 50 percent to 60 percent of the total cases point to the presence of Omicron in general,” said Gaurav Gupta.
Agreeing with this statistic, Dr V Ravi, member of the state’s COVID-19 technical advisory committee, said, “If you have to look at the sequenced samples in the last 10 days as compared to those on 1 December when the first case of Omicron was detected here, the cases have risen to 50 percent to 60 percent of the total.” Karnataka is still better compared to Maharashtra and Delhi with Omicron count standing at 876 and 513 respectively as on 10 January.
COVID’s Third Wave
According to predictions made by the Indian Institute of Science, this third wave is expected to peak in the month of February. “In December, I would receive one or two calls seeking my help to treat them for COVID. Now, in the last one week, I have received roughly around 25 calls,” said Dr Shashidhar Buggi, retired director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, Bengaluru.
“It is expected to be larger than the second wave. Hospital admissions will go up. If the number of cases at this time during the second wave was hovering around 50,000, it could touch a lakh in the third wave.”Dr Ravi Shashidhar Buggi, Retd Director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, Bengaluru
The BBMP has ensured around 3,000 beds are allotted in both government and private hospital sectors. “We are fine-tuning strategies, taking in the advice of medical experts, ramping up testing, tracking cases and keeping a close watch on hospitalisations,” said Gaurav Gupta.
Severity Low, Mortality Low
The only silver lining in this third wave is the fact that mortality is close to nil. “Yes, a lot of people have tested positive, but there have been no distress calls for hospital beds or oxygen cylinders,” said Tanveer Ahmed, a volunteer at Mercy Angels, an NGO in Bengaluru that catered to several COVID victims in the last two waves.
“While the transmission rate has been very high, the severity has been pretty mild,” said Dr Buggi, adding that vaccinations, and the experience of doctors have played equal roles in this. “Either the vaccinations have helped in keeping mortality at zero or the illness in itself is mild,” said Dr Ravi.
Gaurav Gupta maintains that hospitalisations have been manageable. “Admissions into hospitals per day have risen from 30-60 per day to 120-130 per day in Bengaluru m. Most of them are people, who have chosen to be in private hospitals. And 90% of the admissions fall under the general bed category. The demand for oxygen too has remained stagnant,” he said, stressing on the fact that the pressure in this wave is significantly less compared to the 2nd wave.
Vaccinated vs Unvaccinated
Based on the analysis of COVID patients from December 1 last year to January 7 this year, Munish Moudgil, the head of Karnataka’s COVID war room has drawn two conclusions.
1. “Unvaccinated people are 10 times more likely to have manifested COVID infection than those vaccinated.”
2. “Unvaccinated people are 30 times more likely to land in ICU or HDU as compared to those vaccinated.”
Assuming that 97% citizens are vaccinated and 3% are unvaccinated, if both are equally vulnerable to COVID then for every 100 COVID cases or hospitalised cases, 97 should have been vaccinated and 3 should have been unvaccinated. Clearly, that’s not the case.
Has this given rise to a false sense of security?
“Yes,” said Dr Pruthu Narendra Dhekane, consultant at Infectious Diseases, Fortis Hospitals in Bengaluru. Most COVID patients in Bengaluru complain of mild symptoms especially of the upper respiratory. “This could range from slight cough to throat discomfort. Around 90-95% cases in our hospital are those who have received both the doses of the vaccine. And 80% of them will end up with home isolation. So, there is no fear factor,” he said.
It is sheer luck that the variants - be it Delta or Omicron - have been kind this time. We can’t afford to take it for granted and let our guard down.
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