As Bengaluru Takes It Easy, COVID-19 Cases Shoot Up By 132%
Add to it, the Karnataka government is unaware of the source of virus in 49% COVID Cases in Bengaluru.
In 10 days, between 13 to 23 June, Bengaluru witnessed a 132.2 percent increase in COVID-19 cases. The number of COVID-19 related deaths too, increased by 151.72 percent, from 29 to 73. Currently, 71 COVID-19 patients are being treated in Intensive Care Units (ICU).
While Bengaluru is better off compared to other major metros in the country with just 1,505 cases, this sudden spike has spooked the Karnataka government. The Yediyurappa-led government, which was keen on opening up the city’s economy, has now taken a step back.
As the first step, one of Bengaluru’s largest markets and surrounding localities have been placed under a complete lockdown from Tuesday, 23 June. Hours later, Karnataka Health Minister B Sriramalu said that a lockdown may have to be imposed again in the state capital if COVID cases continue to increase rapidly.
The Increased ‘Unknown Source’
The Karnataka government, like the Centre, has denied any community transmission in Bengaluru. A closer look at the numbers, however, shows that in 31 percent of COVID-19 cases, the cause of transmission is Influenza-like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI). As per government records, in these cases the source of the virus is ‘under investigation’ – hinting at community transmission.
Cases classified under three categories – ILI, SARI, and cases where transmission history is unknown – accounts for 49 percent of the total cases. The government doesn’t know the source of the virus in close to half of COVID-19 cases reported in Bengaluru.
Even though the government is overruling community transmission in the city, citing ICMR’s stand on the issue, health care experts are concerned.
“The government can play with words, but according to the World Health Organisation, if you are unable to trace an infection back to a carrier, it is community transfer. If we look at the number of cases with ‘source unknown’, we can deduce the situation on the ground,” said a senior doctor at a government facility treating COVID-19, on condition of anonymity.
The Partial Lockdown
Sources in the government attributed the recent shutting down of KR Market, one of the largest markets in the city, to the spike in the number of cases. An official said that at least 13 wards around KR Market are containment zones.
“It was a logical decision since KR Puram is a busy market area and we don’t want a spread like that of Chennai. So the government has decided to lockdown KR Puram and three areas around it,” he said.
However, similar restrictions have not been placed in other crowded market areas to ensure the economic activities in Bengaluru remain unaffected.
Cause of Concern
The government’s insistence on continuing economic activity has become a matter of concern for the officials of The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the police department.
According to officials, since the number of cases was low, people in the city were lax and preventive measures were not being strictly followed.
“If you look at the situation during the beginning of the month, there were lines outside supermarkets or restaurants, with proper positions marked for those in queue. Now, these norms are not being followed,” said a senior police officer. “During the lockdown, police enforced these norms strictly. After the lockdown was lifted, the police’s job has increased, and it has become difficult to inspect every area,” he added.
According to BBMP, even though there is consensus to shut down areas with high footfall, there are concerns about the economic situation. “It is the fact that every other big market area in the city, whether Commercial Street or any other place, can pose a serious threat of spreading the virus. But the government has to think of people’s livelihoods too,” the official added.
Both BBMP and police said they have instructions to ensure social distancing is maintained across the city in the coming days.
But according to them, all efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the city will go in vain soon if people don’t take safety protocols seriously.
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