Even as the Karnataka government expects COVID-19 cases to double from the current levels (523 as of April 28) by May 6, it plans to partially open up the economy, starting today.
The government on Tuesday said it would allow industries and shops to be open in 14 of the 30 districts under the green zone with no coronavirus cases.
As of April 28, the state had 295 active cases, of which half came from three districts —Bengaluru, Mysuru, and Belagavi.
The containment zones in Padarayanapura and Hongasandra clusters in Bengaluru, the Nanjangudu pharmaceutical company (Jubilant Generics) in Mysuru, Sanghameshwar Nagar, and Aman Nagar in Belagavi reported more cases.
The first case in the Nanjangudu cluster was detected on March 26. Even after a month, the government, which failed to accept community transmission, is still tracing how the first patient, who had no contact history and travel history, contracted the virus.
Similarly, in Padarayanapura cluster, even though the area was declared a containment zone after five positive COVID-19 cases, the government’s failure in effectively implementing the containment norms led to chaos. The cases crossed 25 in the area in 10 days.
Not only did people resort to vandalism by venting their anger against the government, they even refused to get quarantined as they alleged the government picked people arbitrarily. The government failed to take people into confidence and explain them the institutional quarantine norms.
To further the problem, pressured by the BJP’s ministers who blamed the Muslim community for the spread of the virus, the government moved those arrested for vandalism (many of them Muslims) from one district to another, creating havoc. Nearly five people who were arrested for the Padarayanapura vandalism tested positive during the course of this reshuffle in two days.
“The state is unable to comprehend the crisis. Though Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa tried to play neutral, he succumbed to the party pressure and toed the line for the Hindutva agenda,” former Karnataka Minister Priyank Kharge told The Federal.
With lack of coordination among the bureaucrats and politicians, the prisoners were moved from Bengaluru to Ramanagara—JD (S) stronghold—that came under the red zone. It kicked up political controversy with opposition parties attacking the government over its move.
“Ours in the only state where four ministers were in-charge of COVID-19 crisis after they failed one after the other. Now the education minister is handling the healthcare of the state.”
Kharge added that the whole political drama indicates the lack of coordination with the party and that the CM is unable to act on it. He questioned why the CM wasn’t acting against those within his close circles, giving a religious tag to the virus.
“The government had no plans for pre-pandemic, nor do they have plans on how to revive the economy post pandemic,” he adds. He highlighted his own district (Kalburgi) which reported the first COVID-19 case and yet the testing labs were not utilised to the fullest capacity to date.
Calls made to all the four ministers who are/were part of the COVID-19 crisis went unanswered.
Better testing, boost in PPE manufacturing
Karnataka tested 4827 samples on a single day on April 27 (Monday). It moved from an average 2800 day by April 20, to the current levels. The Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar asserted that the state will be able to test 10,000-12,000 samples in a day by May 6. Overall nearly 50,500 people are tested in the state, of which 523 are positive.
Besides, the state also improved on its testing rate. It increased from 484 per million on April 15 to about 639 tests per million population as of April 28. In comparison, in Delhi it is 2120 tests per million population and about 1200-400 in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Karnataka fares better compared to the national average of 380 test per million population. However, With nearly 20 COVID-19 deaths so far, the fatality rate is high at 3.82 per cent as compared to 1.2 percent in Tamil Nadu, 2.6 percent in Telangana, 0.82 percent in Kerala. It was 4.3 percent in Maharashtra, 5 per cent in Madhya Pradesh and 6.6 in Gujarat.
Nearly half the cases are in the age group of 20-40, and about 15 percent of the cases are above 60. The positivity rate per 100 tests for Karnataka stands at 1% according to the State COVID-19 War Room analysis.
On a better scale, the recovery rate (discharge) was at nearly 40 percent.
The state also gave a boost to domestic PPE manufacturing with nearly half the country’s PPE demand are met by firms in the state. nearly 50,000 kits are produced daily in Bengaluru.
Spike in Asymptomatic cases
“On the one hand we are reporting higher asymptomatic (nearly 60 per cent) cases in the state. However, many are not getting tested unless they have a symptom,” Public health expert Dr. Sylvia Karpagam said.
“Besides, there is enough evidence to show there’s community transmission and yet the government denies it.”
Poor care for non-COVID-19 patients
Dr Karpagam also highlighted the worsening medical care for non-COVID-19 patients. “We ourselves witnessed where a patient with life threatening malignancy was denied treatment and asked to come after a week. Similarly, several hospitals are facing challenges to treat pregnant women and HIV patients.”
However, Dr. Gireesh M S of M S Ramaiah Memorial Trust Hospital who agrees that the footfall in the private hospitals for non-COVID cases, attributed it largely to the fears that persist among people about going to hospitals.
“The government should effectively communicate to people about the protocols to be followed while going to hospitals. The fear factor is also because there’s a lag in communication,” Gireesh says.