Authorities struggling to keep pace with contact tracing
Over the past two weeks, 2.71 lakh primary and an almost equal number of secondary contacts have been traced across the State. This is nearly half of what had been traced in a two-week period prior to September 3, when 4.9 lakh primary and 4.3 lakh secondary contacts were traced.
While officials said the total number of contacts would reduce with a declining caseload, experts said contact tracing is very difficult at this stage of the pandemic. Although Karnataka had won appreciation from the Centre for its robust contact tracing efforts in the initial few months, authorities have been struggling to keep the exercise going at the same pace. Till early July, the State was tracing an average of 47 contacts per patient.
A district-wise analysis of the primary contacts per patient in the seven days prior to November 2 shows that Ramanagaram has reported the highest number of primary contacts, with an average of 14 per patient. While Mandya and Dharwad have an average of 11 and 10 primary contacts per patient respectively, Dakshina Kannada, Shivamogga and Chickballapur have an average of nine per patient. At the bottom are Bengaluru Rural and Belagavi who have just three primary contacts per patient. Bengaluru Urban, which is reporting the highest number of positive cases in the State, on an average has four primary contacts per patient. Haveri and Chikkamagaluru also have a similar number.
When it comes to both primary and secondary contacts put together, Mandya has the highest number at 27 followed by Ramanagaram at 26 contacts. While Bengaluru Rural is the lowest in this category too with five contacts per patient, Bengaluru Urban has nine contacts per patient.
Asserting the importance of contact tracing, vital to break the transmission chain, health experts said identifying the vulnerable population including those with comorbidities, ILI and SARI is what is needed at this juncture when the virus is spreading extensively.
Giridhara R. Babu, member, State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), said contact tracing is very difficult at this stage, given the lack of manpower in urban areas such as Bengaluru. “What we need now are ILI surveys at the population level. Such surveys are more important than contact tracing now during the extensive spread,” he said.
Munish Moudgil, who heads the State’s COVID-19 War Room, admitted that contact tracing needs to improve in the State. “Contact tracing is not upto the mark as patients are not cooperative in giving us their contacts. Our staff should improve their efforts,” he said.
On ILI surveys, Mr. Moudgil said one such survey was done in April covering 1.5 crore households. “But that is not of much help as most ILI patients recover by the time the survey is completed,” he added.