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A medic helps her collegue wear a PPE before collecting samples for COVID-19 swab testing in Bengaluru (PTI)
A medic helps her collegue wear a PPE before collecting samples for COVID-19 swab testing in Bengaluru (PTI)

Contact tracing adds to Bengaluru's challenges against Covid-19

Medical experts and government officials say that there cannot be a timeline to complete this process but are confident that in at least 95% of all cases, the source of infection is another infected person or contact even though their own data does not support this claim

Bengaluru: The sharp spike in people testing positive for covid-19 has piled up challenges for authorities in Bengaluru and its contact tracing efforts.

Add to this is the absence of a timeline to identify the source of infection has helped government authorities in Bengaluru steer clear of declaring the possibility of a full blown community transmission of covid-19 by resorting to convenient classifications such as ‘under investigation’ and ‘contact under tracing’.

Medical experts and government officials say that there cannot be a timeline to complete this process but are confident that in at least 95% of all cases, the source of infection is another infected person or contact even though their own data does not support this claim.

“It may be a month, more than a month as the outer limit, usually within a week....there is no time limit for contact tracing," says Dr V.Ravi, the head of neurovirology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS).

The stress on identifying the source of infection comes amid a sharp surge of covid-19 cases that has so far infected 18,016 people in Karnataka and 6,179 in Bengaluru.

In two days, Bengaluru reported 1,624 persons tested positive and the source of infection for all these cases has been classified as “contact under tracing". At least two covid-19 positive persons shared that they have never been contacted by authorities for any additional information.

However, expert committees comprising doctors and other public administrators have ruled out doing away with the contact tracing that is one of the key steps to contain the spread of the virus into the community.

“Doing away with contact tracing is not the proposal," Ravi clarified.

Contact tracing is also a key part of Karnataka’s five ‘T’s strategy to combat the virus.

The union health ministry has pulled up several states for not doing enough contact tracing or stopping the process entirely that may blunt its fight to contain the spread of the virus, especially in the backdrop of a rise in cases and the expected surge in coming months.

“No excuse for contact tracing. If any country is saying contact tracing is difficult, it is a lame excuse." Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

But the growing number of cases that fall under these two classifications has piled on the challenges for governments to continue denying the very real possibility of community transmission citing ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) guidelines.

Another government official says that people withholding information for fear of stigma and being quarantined are forcing the government to dedicate more personnel for contact tracing and further stretching its already inadequate resources.

To make matters worse, health authorities in Karnataka thought it fit to temporarily stop sharing details on the source of infection that goes against its own system of providing as much information on the spread of the virus to keep its edge over its counterparts.

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