‘State’s response to covid has improved this year… there is no shortage of vaccines’


What is the State government’s unlock strategy?

Normally after such a lockdown, restrictions should be eased in a staggered manner. We have allowed only exports to operate right now and even at the district level, the restrictions will be eased based on the positivity rate. We will also check on the number of oxygen beds that are occupied before easing up the restrictions. This battle (covid) can be won only when citizens continue to follow safety precautions and covid appropriate behaviour.

Why are people unable to get vaccines?

There is no shortage of vaccines. Karnataka is giving 3 lakh doses of vaccine every day and till now we have given 1.5 crore doses across the State. In June, I am expecting 80 lakh doses, of which 50 lakh doses are already in hand and 25 lakh doses will be given to private hospitals.

We have rolled out a plan for this month. In Karnataka, 1.22 crore people have received at least one dose of vaccine till now. Similarly, 1.93 lakh citizens in the age group of 18 – 44 have got their first doses. More importantly, Bengaluru’s vaccination is the highest among all the urban cities in the country.

We will start vaccinations for high-risk groups once the lockdown is lifted. We are following a strategic approach of vaccinating vulnerable groups like senior citizens in old age homes, specially-abled citizens so that they are well-protected.

I urge young citizens to patiently wait for their turn and the government will ensure that everyone will get vaccinated as early as possible.

The third wave is expected to hit children. What is the plan to keep them safe?

We have an expert committee under the leadership of Dr Devi Shetty. This committee includes renowned epidemiologists and community health experts who will advise and guide the government about infrastructure, facilities and manpower.

Will those below 18 get vaccinated?

Unless the international regulatory bodies allow us to do that, we cannot take the chance. Covaxin has also started clinical trials and in Karnataka, the trials are going on in Mysuru district.

Bowring hospital says they can’t admit any more patients with Mucormycosis and black fungus.

I am meeting with all the Deans of medical colleges across the state along with DHOs and District surgeons where mucormycosis is being treated. We will do a thorough review.

We are receiving many lower middle-class people and low-income people who are coming to government hospitals for treatment. We are also giving free treatment in the government hospitals and the treatment costs almost Rs 3 to 4 lakhs.

I have also considered including this in the AB-Ark scheme (Ayushman Bharat – Arogya Karnataka Scheme). For BPL cardholders it will cover the whole treatment cost and those with APL cards, will get 30 per cent of the bill covered by the government.

What are the other facilities for this disease?

We have set up post covid centres in hospitals and ensured strict discharge protocol. We also have a new discharge policy where the post covid precautions will be given to the patients.

The drug to treat mucormycosis is expensive and in short supply.

The Central government is continuously supplying enough stock of Amphotericin B (drug used for mucormycosis) and there are other drugs as well which we have placed orders for and now we have enough stock.

To prevent the infection, we are instructing the hospitals to maintain hygiene. We have already appointed an expert committee to study and recommend treatment for the fungal infection, and another committee with a group of microbiologists and fungal experts to look for the source of the infection.

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Private hospitals are sending mucormycosis patients to government hospitals after surgery, because of the shortage of the drug. Are you aware of this?

Yes, I am. Ethically speaking, private hospitals are not supposed to do that because these medicines are available in the market and we are releasing the drugs to private institutions too. If hospitals have any issues, they should contact the government.

Shortage of oxygen, ICU beds and manpower during the second wave was a big issue. How are you planning to tackle this again?

Compared to the first wave, the State’s response has improved this year. Last year we started with two testing labs and now we have almost 200. We were testing 300 per day and now we are testing up to 2 lakh people per day. We had 1,970 oxygenated beds and we have increased it to 35,000 oxygenated beds in health and medical education together. We had 444 ICU beds and 610 ICU beds with ventilators which we have increased to more than 1,100 ICU beds and 1,648 ICU beds with ventilators.

What is the plan to increase ICU and ICU ventilator beds? How many new beds is the government planning to arrange and by when?

Corporates have come forward to partner with the government to augment ICU beds. Texas Instruments will set up a modular ICU unit with 86 critical care beds, for which we have identified a place at RGICD, Bengaluru.

Embassy Group has collaborated with McAfee, AXA, Yahoo, and Capital Land SwissRe to donate about 100 ICU beds and life-saving equipment. These will come at the Leprosy Hospital, Epidemic diseases hospital and Jayanagar General hospital.

We are adding about 77 ICU beds in CV Raman General Hospital. Goldman Sachs has announced a contribution of 250 beds, operations support and medical staff worth Rs 20 crore as part of their covid-19 relief and rehabilitation efforts in Karnataka.

This initiative by Goldman Sachs includes 30 ITU beds at St John’s Hospital, 50 beds Covid Care Centre with 5 ICU beds at Prakriya Hospital, supporting operations and medical staff for 50 bed CCC at HAL Hospital and 120 HDU beds at Narayana Health Hospital.

Bengaluru’s fatality rate is alarming.

Bengaluru has a minimum of six to seven districts from where people come as they know that the city has the best health care. The majority of the cases that come here are critical cases and late reporting cases. The number of cumulative cases in Bengaluru is 11,80,000 out of which 14,689 have lost their lives and the fatality rate is 1.24 per cent. Bengaluru’s fatality rate is lesser than other cities.

Why does Bengaluru have 1 lakh-plus active cases?

According to me, we are testing more which is why we have more active cases than other cities. We have done 1.3 crore tests in Bengaluru.

What are you doing about private hospitals charging exorbitant rates for covid treatment?

That is inhuman, unethical and illegal. We will act on complaints and take strict action. We have fixed the prices and they cannot

overcharge.



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Sagar Biswas

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