As travel is expected to increase in the next few weeks, Karnataka is likely staring at a shortage of beds at quarantine centres, health department officials say. Karnataka is currently housing 1.1 lakh people in quarantine centres across the state. With the governmentâ€™s capacity of 1.5 lakh beds in these quarantine centres, 73% of the beds are currently occupied, according to the director of the Heath Department, Omprakash Patil.
As of Friday, there are 1,279 government quarantine centres, according to Omprakash Patil, Director of Health and Family Welfare Department. He further states that various district administrators have identified additional quarantine facilities. However, this may not be adequate, he maintains.
Considering that people keep coming in and out of quarantine centres, there will be an overlap at some point and there could be a situation where the state government may run out of quarantine centres, Director Omprakash added. Karnataka also reduced its mandatory institutional quarantine rule from 14 days to 7 days earlier in May.
â€śPeople keep moving out of quarantine centres every day and this number keeps changing on a daily basis. In Kalaburagi alone there are 38,000 people in quarantine centres. On an average around 2000 to 4000 people come in via flights every day. In the next two days, the guidelines for quarantine are expected to change,â€ť Omprakash Patil said.
On Friday night, the Karnataka government announced that only passengers coming in from six high-risk states including Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, would have to undergo mandatory institutional quarantine. And the state government further made it mandatory for the people to pay for their COVID-19 tests upon arrival.
This decision comes just a day after Karnatakaâ€™s Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister JC Madhuswamy made a U-turn regarding banning flights from five states including Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Hours after he told the media that the cabinet had decided to ban flights from these states, he retracted his statement and said the movement would be restricted.
Madhuswamy had stated that since people were coming in large numbers from these states, there were concerns about quarantine facilities.
Sources in the Health Department said that the expert committee to tackle COVID-19 in Karnataka had recommended that the state government should do away with institutional quarantine, at least for people from low-risk states.
â€śThis is because of the fear that even those who do not have the infection may get it at the quarantine centres. However, institutional quarantine has helped stop the spread of infection as many people are travelling from other states. The problem is how to monitor people if we do away with institutional quarantine and mandate home quarantine. This is also because 95% of those who tested positive are asymptomatic,â€ť a senior health department official said.
Health Department officials say that if the government decides to do away with institutional quarantine for everyone, then people would be asked to download the Arogya Setu app, so the surveillance offices can track their movements. â€śBut there is a problem with this too. It's about monitoring more people. As travel restrictions are expected to be eased further, we are mulling over whether this is a good decision,â€ť the official added.