Udupi district in Karnataka recorded 73 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, taking the total number of patients in the district to 260. The figure had seemed far-fetched on May 15, when the number of cases in the district stood at just three. The latest spike has been attributed to the return of migrants from other states as well as people from abroad.
But officials in the district say that the spike in cases may continue for a while longer since the results of more than 3,000 samples are pending. These samples are from people who returned to the district in the last two weeks.
This delay is because the laboratories testing samples from Udupi are burdened with a high case-load after more than 8,500 people returned to the district, particularly from the neighboring state of Maharashtra.
"Samples have piled up after the influx of people returning from other states and from abroad," says Dr Prashant Bhat, nodal officer for COVID-19 in Udupi. This delay has caused returnees in institutional quarantine to stay on for as long as 18 days, Dr Prashant added.
The designated laboratory for coronavirus testing in Udupi is Wenlock District Hospital in Mangaluru. The district administration also sends samples to laboratories at the Kasturba Hospital in Manipal, Yenepoya Medical College, Mangaluru, KS Hegde Medical Academy, Mangaluru, and Viral Diagnostic Laboratory in Shivamogga. Apart from Udupi, the laboratory in Manipal is also testing samples from Uttara Kannada district. The laboratory in Shivamogga is also testing samples from Shivamogga and Bijapur districts. The laboratories in Mangaluru, similarly, have samples from Dakshina Kannada district.
Dr Avinash Shetty, Medical Superintendent of Kasturba Hospital in Manipal, one of the private laboratories being used by the Udupi district administration, told TNM that they are testing samples in batches. "We received around 600 samples today and we will be testing them now. The backlog of samples should be cleared in the next few days," Dr Avinash said.
All 73 cases reported in Udupi on Monday were patients with travel history of returning from Maharashtra or patients with travel history of returning from abroad.
In cases of some patients who tested coronavirus positive in the past week, people were released from institutional quarantine after a stipulated period only to be tracked down again and admitted in hospitals after their results returned positive.
While two such cases emerged in Belapu and Belman in the district, the administration is now following up with others who were released from institutional quarantine to ensure they remain in home quarantine till their test results are confirmed.
The spike in cases among returning migrants in Udupi also comes at a time the Karnataka government reduced restrictions on inter-state travel.