Amid surge, Bengaluru trend projects 25k Covid-19 infections per day
If the current surge in coronavirus cases here continues for two weeks, Bengaluru is likely to report around 25,000 cases daily, an analysis by Hindustan Times has revealed.
Just a week ago, the city was reporting 4,110 fresh cases a day on an average. This means that in just a week, the rate of new infections has grown by 82%. This figure is not an aberration as well – the week-on-week growth rate has remained above the 75% mark on an average throughout the past month.
The surge and estimated case rise presents a formidable challenge for India’s IT capital and its crumbling health care infrastructure that has been overburdened on account of the steady rise of infections.
“The growth in cases is dependent on several factors. We have to take it as it comes but we have factored in the surge and kept (our system) in readiness and all contingencies,” Karnataka commissioner for health K V Trilok Chandra said.
With the fear of getting penalised being the sole reason for wearing masks, that too mostly below the nose, and no semblance of social distancing in crowded places, Bengaluru faces a daunting task of not just containing the surge but also treat the highest number of people requiring hospitalisation.
According to the realtime hospital bed updation system of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), there are 5,592 hospital beds in the city. Of this, 4,117 remained occupied as of 10.40 pm on Saturday. More worrying is that out of 623 intensive care unit beds and those with ventilators in both government and private medical facilities, 583 are occupied.
Data also revealed that occupancy in 450 beds across government hospitals are almost 100% while it is 92.62% in government medical colleges. The occupancy rate at private medical colleges are 60.13% and 65.20% in private medical colleges.
K Sudhakar, Karnataka health and family welfare and medical education minister, on Friday said that even hotels may be converted into ‘make-shift’ hospitals to treat asymptomatic persons.
“95% of the infected persons have no or mild symptoms during the second wave. Only 5% need hospitalisation. Therefore, it is requested that only those with severe symptoms approach hospitals for treatment,” Sudhakar said in a statement on Friday. After the end of the first wave, the seven-day average (of cases) in the city witnessed a steady drop (like it did for the rest of the country at the end of 2020) and ultimately reduced to 227 (cases) for the week ending February 24. Since then, however, the city has witnessed a sudden and abrupt rise in infections.
After Friday’s tally, the seven-day average of daily infections, which represents a region’s Covid-19 curve, has soared to a record high of 7,489 cases a day in Bengaluru. This is 1.6 times the number of cases reported per day during the first wave — the first wave touched a high of 4,689 cases a day in Bengaluru for the week ending October 12, 2020. On Friday, the Karnataka government almost halved the permissible limits for gatherings at weddings to 200 in open spaces and 100 in enclosed areas while it is around 25-50 at funerals and less than 25 in burials. Chief minister B S Yediyurappa, who tested positive for the second time (the first time was in August) also held an emergency meeting at his residence, Cauvery, to discuss ways to contain the surge. After about an hour-and-a-half of deliberations, he told reporters that the night curfew, that is in place in seven districts including Bengaluru, could possibly be extended along with few other restrictions after the all-party meeting on Sunday and consultation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the same.
The chief minister tested positive and four days after he had tested negative before departing to Belagavi, about 506 kms from Bengaluru, to campaign for the bypolls.
Meanwhile, Covid test results in the city are taking as long as 72 hours now and there are also reports of shortage of Remdesivir. According to BBMP, there have been 96,109 cases in Bengaluru for the first 17 days of April as against 31,886 in the whole of March and 6,813 in February. The positivity rate is over 16% in the capital city.
The unplanned and erratic growth of Bengaluru has made it more difficult for authorities to create micro-containment zones in places other than large apartment complexes and other affluent localities.
At present, there are only 32 active containment zones in the city, according to BBMP.
Senior government officials and experts said it was easy to demarcate containment zones in apartment complexes but difficult to implement them in smaller localities. In localities where there is no room for isolation, authorities are trying to move infected people to Covid care centres (CCC).
Data also showed that 4,080 people have been either shifted to hospitals or CCCs in the last seven days. “It is necessary to take certain strict measures and proper treatment protocols to contain the second wave. We need to prevent the third wave by getting vaccinated,” Sudhakar said. “There are not enough beds in Bengaluru and the government should resolve this. The more we delay from the government side, the more problematic it will become,” said one member of the technical advisory committee on anonymity.