Spike in COVID-19 cases in Bengaluru, Hyderabad causes concern

PTI, Jul 8, 2020, 8:49 PM IST

The sharp spurt in the number of coronavirus cases in Bengaluru and Hyderabad since relaxations in lockdown curbs last month is causing concern for managers of the two southern cities.

In the first seven days of this month alone, Bengaluru has added over 6,800 cases while the Telangana capital more than 9,000 infections with officials attributing it largely to the movement of people consequent to easing of restrictions.

These two cities had remained relatively immune to the virus till over a month ago when Chennai in neighbouring Tamil Nadu was reporting high caseload due to two superspreaders, including Koyambedu wholesale market.

In Bengaluru, the country’s IT capital, the upward curve came sooner than anticipated, at least by two weeks, prompting officials to expedite measures.

On the other hand, in Hyderabad, there has also been an increase in the number of tests since late last month with the government declaring it would carry out 50,000 tests in the city and its neighbourhood.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Bengaluru was only 358 on May 31 when Lockdown 4 ended but has risen to 4,555 on June 30 (end of Unlock 1.0), and further zoomed to 11,361 on Tuesday, according to the city civic body.

With 9,395 active cases, the city has so far reported 155 deaths and 1,810 discharges. While the positivity rate stands at 8.52 per cent, the mortality rate is 1.37 per cent.

According to Dr Giridhar Babu of Public Health Foundation of India, while everyone anticipated the surge, the timing took them by surprise.

“So while the state and BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) were planning to roll out COVID care centres and everything by the end of this week expecting that the surge will happen around this time, the surge started two weeks earlier,” Babu said.

Also a member of the state COVID-19 technical advisory committee, he said, “so the emergency response kind of thing did not happen, but now I think it is back on track.” Those in the administration did expect the cases to increase after relaxation relating to lockdown curbs but had no idea it would spike so early.

“In Bengaluru, we were aware that there would be a surge in the number of infections when we relaxed the lockdown, but the information that came to us did not show that the surge will be to this extent,” Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar said.

“These numbers we are seeing now were expected by July-end, but has happened a bit earlier,” he said but added there was no need to worry as the government was making all the necessary arrangements to manage the situation.

Out of the overall 26,815 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Karnataka, 11,361 infections are from Bengaluru Urban, and 800 of the 1,498 fresh cases reported in the state on Tuesday were from the capital city alone.

According to Babu, Bengaluru was at the risk of having a surge in cases from the beginning like some other cities, but the numbers did not see an incremental jump during the lockdown because the curbs were implemented much better.

He said coordination and preparation within BBMP post relaxations did not match with the kind of “brilliant work” they did during the lockdown and it was one of the reasons for the surge in cases.

Effective contact tracing was done during the lockdown and involving almost all the staff members, but once the lockdown was lifted they resumed with their earlier duties, and this led to a shortage of manpower for contact tracing.

The government has now deployed 1,246 employees from various departments for contact tracing with special focus on Bengaluru and surrounding areas and warned of strict action in case of refusal to undertake the work.

Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana, has also witnessed a quick average increase since July 1.

Though the cumulative number of cases in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation limits was not immediately available, the daily numbers have been quite significant. The first week of this month alone saw an addition of 9,227 cases with a steady increase in the single-day count which has remained in four figures since July 3.

Health department officials attribute the surge in cases in the GHMC area, besides other places in Telangana, to increased movement of people and mobility after relaxation in lockdown conditions had been allowed. Citizens are travelling across the state and most of them were not following the basic preventive measures like wearing a mask, they said.

As on July 7, the tally of positive cases in the state stood at 27,612 with 313 deaths against 1,28,438 samples tested cumulatively.

Amidst opposition criticism over the handling of the pandemic, especially on the testing front, the government had last month announced ramping up the test samples in districts including Hyderabad, even as it urged people not to panic.

The State’s high court had also expressed displeasure over a report filed by the government on the number of tests done and sought to know why reports on the coronavirus situation being put out for the public lacked ”detailed” information.

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