How & Why Bengaluru Is Emerging as India’s Worst Hit COVID-19 City

Data shows that Bengaluru’s COVID curve is not showing any sign of flattening. 

Updated
India
4 min read
Several members of the expert committee say the government has decided to impose a one-week lockdown, even though they had recommended a three-week lockdown.
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Statistically speaking, Pune has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in India, as on 7 October. Bengaluru has the third-highest number of cases. However, at present, Bengaluru is the city worst affected by COVID-19 in India, and perhaps in the world.

The key to understanding the severity of Bengaluru’s COVID situation is in the number of cases reported in a 15-day period – between 23 September and 7 October, to be precise.

During these 15 days, Pune reported 2,761 cases per day on average. Mumbai, which has the second-highest number of cases, reported 2,121 cases on average, per day. However, Bengaluru, on average, reported 4,100 per day. 

If this trend continues, Bengaluru will have the highest number of COVID cases in the country soon.

Where Does Bengaluru Stand in COVID Cases?

The two graphs pasted above and below show the total number of COVID cases reported in major cities and the daily increase in cases.

While the graph showing the total number of cases puts Bengaluru behind Pune and Delhi for now, the graph showing the daily increase in cases shows how Bengaluru has been surging ahead of other cities on this parameter.

In terms of deaths reported, Bengaluru is far behind Pune and Mumbai. While Pune and Mumbai reported 6,134 and 9,296 cases respectively, Bengaluru reported 3,233 cases on 8 October.

In the last 15 days, while Bengaluru reported 31 deaths per day on average, Mumbai reported 46 and Pune reported 47 cases of death.

The Elusive Flattening Of the Curve in Bengaluru

A look at the graphs showing daily growth in major cities shows that New Delhi has seen two spikes in the number of COVID infections, while Pune and Chennai have overcome one spike each and the numbers of cases per day is showing a reduction in these cities. Mumbai on the other hand is showing that the number of cases per day has remained steady.

But, in the case of Bengaluru, the graph is going up without any signs of the number of cases reported per day showing any signs of dropping. This is a matter of great concern.

As the graph below shows, in the last 15 days, Bengaluru has recorded close to double the number of infections compared to Pune.

So, why is the situation in Bengaluru getting worse and where did the city lose the plot?

Contact Tracing – Now an Impossible Task

The failure of the contact tracing system in the city is the government’s easy answer to explain the inability to control the spread, but healthcare workers say they are being made the scapegoats.

“We are expected to track all contacts of people who have tested positive, but the government has removed all restrictions on movement. As of last month, those who are entering the state don’t have to undergo mandatory quarantine either. How do you expect us to work efficiently in such circumstances?” asked one of the health workers.

However, BBMP commissioner Manjunath Prasad said the new regulations haven’t affected the contact tracing process in the city. According to him, at least 10 contacts per patient are traced by the healthcare workers.

A health worker, however, added that the process is still incomplete. “Ever since the guidelines were lifted people are visiting temples, malls and all sorts of crowded places. How are we expected to track all these contacts,” she asked.

‘Govt Not Strict Anymore’: Officials

A passenger, wearing a mask in the wake of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, speaks to a railway official at an enquiry counter, at Bengaluru City Railway Station, Monday, 16 March 2020.
A passenger, wearing a mask in the wake of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, speaks to a railway official at an enquiry counter, at Bengaluru City Railway Station, Monday, 16 March 2020.
(Photo: PTI)

On Wednesday, 7 October, the Karnataka government issued orders to scale back the penalty amount for not wearing masks from Rs 1,000 to Rs 250 in urban areas, and from Rs 500 to Rs 100 in rural areas. The government decision to increase the fines were seen as a deterrent to the complacency that has kicked in.

“We were happy when the government decided to increase fines. We were seeing several cases in Bengaluru of people roaming without masks. So, when the government initially proposed to decrease the fines because of pressure from the regional media, we opposed the decision,” said a senior IAS officer in the BBMP.

The officer added that the government’s reasoning, that many people are saying that they cannot pay such heavy fines, doesn’t make sense.

“Such violations shouldn’t happen in the first place. Because people aren’t doing it, the fines are in place. This government is not strict anymore,” he added.

‘Free Treatment’ Offer Allowing People to Be Careless: Expert

Dr Jagadish Hiremath, a public health expert, says the offer of 'free treatment' is one of the reasons for the complacency. “The government says it will take care of the medical expenses of COVID patients in both, private and public hospitals. This attempt to be people-friendly, has worked against the attempt to control COVID. That you can get free treatment in good private hospitals takes away the fear of the disease. If there is no economic burden to worry about, people will be careless”.

A senior doctor in Bengaluru underlined the paradox – when the city is in community transfer state (though not acknowledged by the government) and witnessing a peak, more people are out of the streets.

“We have seen people not wearing masks inside our hospital premises. Some people have told me that they want to get it once and be done with it. They still don’t understand the seriousness of the issue so far,” he added.

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