Exponential rise in cases has sent the B.S. Yediyurappa government into a tailspin.
Bengaluru: Call it complacency, ineptness of the authorities or lack of preparedness, the Bengaluru model of tackling coronavirus, which was to be replicated across the country, has faltered. As the saying goes, success has many fathers, but failure is always an orphan; the blame game has already begun in the silicon valley of the country. All the accolades and adulations the government received just under a month ago have now turned into a barbwire.
The exponential increase in the number of the cases has sent the B.S. Yediyurappa government into a tailspin. Every day for the past one week, the city is setting a new record as far as Covid-19 cases are concerned. On Saturday, Karnataka breached the 20,000 Covid cases mark. The number of fresh cases in Karnataka on Saturday were 1,839, out of which Bengaluru saw 1,172 cases and 42 deaths. Total cases in the state were 21,549 out of which active cases are 11,966 and total deaths are 335. The number of active cases in Bengaluru was 7,250. As on Saturday, this is the biggest spike for a day so far, state wise and Bengaluru-wise.
The action has now shifted from BBMP’s Covid war room to the CM’s conference hall where BSY, along with his battery of ministers—Deputy CM Ashwathnaraya, Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai, Health Minister B. Sriramulu and Medical Education Minister Dr Sudhakar—is locked up for hours strategising on how to tackle the pandemic which has gone out of control.
The state government would swear by the mantra—Tracing, Tracking, Testing and Treating. This was seen as the most methodical approach to contain the deadly virus. But once the virus graduated from local transmission to community transmission, something which is still not officially accepted by the ICMR, things went out of control. The sheer number of positive cases, which were in the 10s turned to 100s and now to 1000s in the state, and has left the Covid authorities in tatters.
According to health ministry sources, there is a backlog of over 25,000 samples to be tested as of today and this number is only growing. “After the Union Health ministry revised guidelines on treatment of Covid patients, we have issued orders that asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic patients be treated at home. We need beds to treat critically affected patients. We are creating medical infrastructure on a war-footing. But every day, it is like going to war,’’ he said.
Dr Vishal Rao, well-known oncology surgeon at HCG, who is also part of the task force on Covid constituted under BSY, said: “There are only two wrong choices to make and we have picked that which can limit damage—either open up the economy or lock down in the interest of health. Unlock 1.0 is the main reason behind Karnataka witnessing this kind of surge. We imported the virus from across the country. Unless we see zero cases for two consecutive weeks, we shouldn’t have opened the borders. But these are hard decisions to make and easier said than done,’’ he said.
Globally till today nobody has got it right, neither economically advanced countries nor medically or scientifically advanced countries. “Countries like Germany, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea went into complete lockdown. Today, they are way ahead and have contained the virus, but at the same time, they had to pay the premium,” said Dr Rao, adding that “we need a pandemic drill which is the main reason behind Kerala’s success. They had exposure to SARS and Nipah virus, so they knew what should have been done”.
Deputy CM Ashwathnarayan told The Sunday Guardian that it was inevitable to open the borders. “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. We were the first to clamp down on movement, we were the first to announce lockdown and the first to come up with sealed down and containment zones. We had our share of success too. Even now, we are far better compared to all the metro cities, but there is a lot that needs to be done. We have prioritised Covid management over everything else. We are building large medical facilities in exhibition halls, auditoriums, sports complexes and stadiums. It’s not easy to carry out such works in a thickly populated country like India. The private hospitals, too, have chipped in. We are preparing for the worst,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Sudakar, medical education minister in charge of Covid issues, told The Sunday Guardian that booth-level task force, both at rural and urban areas of the state, will be formed in three to four days. “We don’t know how long this pandemic will exist, three months or six months…this task force will be structural and functional. Bengaluru alone will have 8,880 booths in 28 Assembly constituencies. Tracking and handling of all Covid cases at the local level will begin shortly,’’ he said. He, however, ruled out any further lockdowns as far as Bengaluru or Karnataka is concerned in the wake of the increasing cases.