Karnataka is currently under a stringent lockdown until May 24, in hopes of bringing down the number of fresh COVID-19 cases. This comes at a time when the state, and especially Bengaluru, is reeling under a massive shortage of oxygen, ICU and ventilator beds. Apart from medical facilities, the state is also facing a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines.
At a press conference held on May 13, the Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said that efforts are on to ramp up infrastructure for the availability of beds in both private and state-run hospitals. The Department of Health and Family Welfare, which had only 1970 oxygenated beds, 444 ICUs and 610 ICUs with ventilators in March last year, now has more than 24,000 oxygenated beds, 1,145 ICU beds, 2,058 ventilated beds and 1,248 beds with high flow nasal cannula (HFNC), he said.
To tackle the shortage of medical oxygen in the state, the CM said that a three-pronged strategy of increasing the supply of liquid medical oxygen (LMO), increasing localised generation of oxygen and large-scale procurement of oxygen cylinders and concentrators is being implemented.
He also announced that the state is preparing for the possible third wave of coronavirus infections by setting up 127 oxygen generating units in medical college hospitals, district hospitals and taluk hospitals.
Addressing the shortage of vaccines that the state is currently facing, the CM said that 1.10 crore doses have been supplied to Karnataka by the Union government, out of which 99.5 lakh are Covishield and 10.9 lakh are Covaxin vaccines. The state plans to procure 5 crore doses of the vaccine for the 18-44 age group; the order has been placed for 3 crore doses of vaccines (2 crore doses of Covishield and 1 crore doses of Covaxin).
The CM also acknowledged the limitations of the Co-WIN portal in booking slots for vaccination, and said that the state government is coming up with its own technology, after which the drive for the 18-44 age group will be relaunched. Professor Gagandeep Kang of the Christian Medical College in Vellore has been brought on as an advisor on vaccination strategy.
In order to prepare for a probable third wave of coronavirus infections in the state, the government of Karnataka will set up a task force headed by Dr Devi Prasad Shetty of Narayana Health.
Karnataka's death toll due to COVID-19 touched 20,368 with 517 fatalities on Wednesday, May 12 while 39,998 fresh cases took the infection count to 20.53 lakh, the health department said. The state has 5.92 lakh active COVID-19 cases while the total discharges stood at 14.40 lakh with the recovery of 34,752 people on the day. Bengaluru Urban district reported 16,286 infections and 275 fatalities on Wednesday, which is highest in the state. The city has so far reported 9.99 lakh infections and 8,964 deaths due to COVID-19.