Even as COVID-19 Spikes in Rural Karnataka, State Tests 50% Less

In Bengaluru, the number of COVID-19 cases increased from 357 to 725, between 31 May to 15 June.

5 min read
Even as COVID-19 Spikes in Rural Karnataka, State Tests 50% Less
Hindi Female

The Quint DAILY

For impactful stories you just can’t miss

By subscribing you agree to our Privacy Policy

Coronavirus came to the doorsteps of Karnataka secretariat when a 42-year-old stenographer working at the Food and Civil Supplies Department was tested positive on Tuesday. Multiple offices in Vikasa Soudha were sealed off after she was tested positive.

This COVID case in the corridors of power was perhaps a reminder to the government that despite Karnataka effectively managing the virus crisis so far, the struggle is far from over.

At the end of May, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Karnataka was 3,221. But after Narendra Modi government lifted the lockdown, within 15 days, the numbers doubled and reached 7,213.

Similarly, in Bengaluru, the number of COVID-19 cases increased from 357 to 725, between 31 May to 15 June.


Karnataka has so far set an example, with its pre-emptive steps and effective implementation of guidelines from experts, on how to fight the virus. However, since the lifting of lockdown, there are some concerns over in the State.

  • Close to 50 percent reduction in tests conducted.
  • A sharp increase in cases in rural Karnataka.
  • Formation of a severe cluster in Ballari.

Over 50 Percent Reduction in Testing

The health ministry added new symptoms like the “loss of smell and taste” in their criteria for testing COVID-19.
(Photo: PTI)

Let’s just straight into the numbers. On 1 June Karnataka tested 11,241 people for COVID-19, but on 15 June, the number of tests dropped to 5,362; a 52 percent reduction in testing.

A closer look at these numbers shows that between 1 June to 7 June, on average, Karnataka conducted 12,981 tests per day. But from 8 June to 15 June, when unlock 1.0 was in effect, the average testing dropped to 8,111 per day.

Fewer tests also meant a reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases.

On 5 June, 13,627 tests were conducted in the state, and the labs reported 515 new cases. Ten days later, when the number of tests was reduced to 5,362, the number of new positive cases too dropped to 213.

According to a health department official, the reduction in numbers was due to a recent change in the testing criteria, to remove asymptomatic persons. As of now, testing of asymptomatic persons is limited to contacts, elderly, children and pregnant women.

At the same, 93 percent of the total cases in Karnataka are asymptomatic.

New Strategy Announced

Facing a backlash over the reduction in the testing, Karnataka’s Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar, on Tuesday 16 June, announced that individual testing numbers in the state would be increased to at least 15,000 samples per day.

“We are going to increase the number of tests up to a minimum of 15,000 to 25,000 tests every day. There are 41 government labs and 31 private labs, and we will be doing individual testing,” the minister said, following a meeting with senior officials and experts.

As per the new guidelines all interstate travellers, railway officials, police officers, health workers, delivery personnel, street vendors, people working at billing counters of supermarkets, sanitation workers will be tested for COVID-19.


Ballari: The Cluster of Concern

103 coronavirus cases reported in Ballari district of Karnataka are connected to the Toranagallu-based JSW steel plant.
(Photo Courtesy:

Handling clusters effectively differentiated Karnataka’s fight against COVID-19 from other major states. However, the state is looking at a dangerous cluster formation, which if not controlled, could spiral out of control.

134 people have been tested positive in India’s largest steel plant, in Ballari district in north Karnataka. Authorities have quarantined more than 400 primary contacts, who were in touch with the first case from the Jindal Steel plant.

At present, around 10,750 employees are asked to work from home, and the area surrounding the plant has been sealed off.

The index patient in the cluster is a 35-year-old employee of JSW Steel plant. He had travelled to the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border near Anekal to drop his ailing mother for treatment in Tamil Nadu. His relatives then took his mother to her native place in Salem, Tamil Nadu for treatment.

On his return to Ballari, he worked for about five-six days in the plant. It was only after his mother was testing positive; authorities tested him for COVID-19.

Since then, 133 more people have tested positive. Jindal Township in Toranagl, Ballari city, Sandur and Hosapete have become areas of interest since workers from the factory travelled to these areas. Jindal Township in Toranagl remains the hotspot since maximum cases were reported there.

On his way back from Tamil Nadu, the index patient had stayed back in Bengaluru for a day. Now, officials are tracking possible contacts in the Bengaluru as well. Handling of this cluster will be crucial if the government wants to restrict the numbers in Karnataka.


The Spike in Rural Karnataka

In Karnataka, in the initial days of the virus spread, Bengaluru accounted for most of the COVID-19 cases. However, since June, the trend has changed. As of 15 June, districts of Udupi in coastal Karnataka and Kalburgi, and Yadgir in North Karnataka account for 38 percent of the total cases in the state.

With the influx of Maharashtra returnees to Karnataka, there has been a spurt in the number of COVID-19 cases. As of 15 June, out of total 7,213 cases in the state 4,386 are returnees from Maharashtra, and they have 1,340 contacts. Experts believe if this trend continues the cases will cross the 20,000 mark by the end of June.

As per the new norms issued by the government, returnees from Maharashtra are to undergo a minimum seven days of institutional quarantine followed by seven days home quarantine.


The Current Situation

As on 15 June, out of 2,956 active cases in the State, 2,940 patients are in isolation at designated hospitals and are stable, while 16 are in ICU. The mortality in the State is 1.2 percent, while the national average is 2.8 per cent. The recovery rate is 56.6 percent, and the national average is 51 percent.

Economic activities in the state restarted after lockdown norms were eased earlier this month, but are yet to gain momentum. Although most activities are allowed, the government is yet to allow cinema theatres and multiplexes, swimming pools, gyms, bars and pubs to restart operations.

Even though there has been a sharp increase in the number of cases in Karnataka, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa made it clear that the state will not go for another lockdown. “The lockdown is not required, and we will ask for more relaxations to boost economic activities,” Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said.

Effective testing protocols, contact tracing and handling the containment zones gave the Karnataka an edge over many states in controlling the virus. Thus maintaining these standards will be crucial if Karnataka wants to maintain this edge.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from news and india

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More