Bengaluru’s COVID-19 story may have got better, but doctors advise caution


From being one of the least-affected major cities during the initial days of the COVID-19 outbreak to becoming one of the worst hit, and then seeing a substantial dip in the number of cases, Bengaluru’s journey so far in an unpredictable year has been a roller-coaster ride.

When the pandemic outbreak became evident in March, the city reported 44 cases with a positivity rate of 3.76%. As cases multiplied, primarily after unlock measures began kicking in, by June, 4,904 were reported. The steady rise in cases continued in July, when the numbers blew up to 52,106 with a 24.15% positivity rate, and started breaching the one lakh mark by September.

 

The huge numbers had sent the administration and medical fraternity into a tizzy, with hospital resources being stretched beyond means, staff complaining of being overworked, patients alleging being turned away from hospitals, and government departments scrambling to control the situation.

Surprisingly, in October-November, when the festival season was ushered in expecting it to make matters worse, the number of positive cases began dipping. From 1,01,120 cases in October, the number of positive cases dropped to 31,856 in November.

BBMP commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad said the initial explosion in case numbers began due to the opening up of the economy. “A lot of people started coming into the State. Migrant workers too started returning to work. One by one the economy opened, and mixing of populations, which was contained during the lockdown, started,” he said.

The commissioner said it was the aggressive strategy targeting, tracing, isolating and the huge number of tests conducted that proved effective. “We went on testing. If someone was found positive, then they would be isolated and the chain broken. We have not lost that momentum. In the last 10 days, we have been conducting over 41,500 tests,” he said.

With colleges reopening, adding to the list of sectors opening up before the assurance of a vaccine coming into the scene, Mr. Prasad said the BBMP was ready.

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R. Ravindra, president, Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA), credited increased testing and isolation of positive patients as the major contributing factors in bringing down the numbers. “People are still being tested and 35% of patients in my hospital are COVID-19 positive. So patients are coming in. Surveillance is still happening. The BBMP is on its toes. What is different now is that there is no panic,” he said.

The reducing number of cases is encouraging non COVID-19 patients to seek help, he said. “Non COVID-19 work has definitely picked up, surgeries are back to normal. Earlier, patients were unwilling to come. Now, outpatients are coming in and it is 70% back to normal,” he added.

However, Dr. Ravindra advised caution. “It appears that the natural cycle of the virus is of numbers going down before a second wave hits. This is what we have seen happening around the world. But now people are increasingly becoming complacent with wearing mask and social distancing. Tourist movement has increased and everyone is in year end mode. I would advise caution,” he said.

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Sagar Biswas

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