The surge in COVID-19 cases in Bengaluru continued on Friday with the city reporting 526 COVID-19 cases. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner Manjunath Prasad described the situation as 'a serious concern' in a meeting held on Friday to discuss the rising cases.
On March 1, the BBMP reported 210 cases in Bengaluru and since then, the cases have steadily increased in the city, particularly in the east, south, west and Mahadevapura zones. Bellandur, Hagadur, Shantala Nagar and Gandhi Nagar are among the wards that have reported a surge in cases. Bommanahalli and Yelahanka zones meanwhile have reported multiple clusters of cases.
The BBMP reported in the virtual meeting held on Friday that 90% of the cases reported in the last ten days in the city were asymptomatic and were either in home isolation or took treatment in private hospitals in the city. "Most of those in hospitals are admitted in private hospitals and we are collecting more information about the cases as well as looking to improve the contact tracing and surveillance," P Rajendra Cholan, BBMP Special Commissioner (Health) said in the meeting.
Officials admitted there was a delay in contact tracing and that it was taking up to 4 days for contact tracing and testing process. "There is a flaw in what we are doing in contact tracing. There should be coordination between medical officers and those who are being deployed in contact tracing - who are working under revenue officers. The medical officer in a PHC should be given the regular reports about contact tracing and the swab tests done," said BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad. The Commissioner also reported that the positivity rate in the city had risen above 1%.
Rajendra Cholan, Health Commissioner, said that officials are tracing an average of 4.5 contacts for every positive case reported in the city. He admitted that efforts to trace contacts of positive cases should be stepped up.
Concerns were raised about the contact tracing process in light of the new variants of the virus reported in the state. "The new variants of the virus - South African, Brazilian - are far more infectious and can spread faster. Contact tracing becomes even more relevant and travel history should be taken up seriously. The health department is busy with vaccination drive and there should be other officers deployed for contact tracing," said Dr Giridhar Babu, member of the state advisory committee on COVID-19 said.
Two more patients with the South African strain were detected in Karnataka on Friday in Ballari district, taking the total number of such cases in the state to three. The state reported 833 cases on Friday, a seven-week high since January 23 when the state reported 902 cases. On the same day Bengaluru reported 527 cases in comparison to the 526 reported on Friday.
BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad further said strict physical distancing measures will be enforced and mask violations will be reported. "I would like to clarify that neither the Government of Karnataka nor the BBMP has issued any such instructions or order exempting persons travelling in private vehicles, including 2 wheelers, from wearing masks," he said in response to reports that masks are no longer a must in private vehicles. "I never stated that private vehicles, including 2 wheelers, have been exempted from wearing masks; instead, I had instructed the BBMP Marshals to concentrate more on crowded places like markets, marriage halls, malls, religious gatherings and vehicles with yellow boards," he added.
He also said that the daily testing numbers of 35,000 should be increased with more targeted testing in the city.