A sudden spurt in cases of influenza and disregard for social distancing norms may have contributed to the surge in covid-19 cases in Bengaluru, officials and medical experts said.
Though the Karnataka government had initially implemented strict lockdown measures to contain the pandemic substantially, it now seems to be losing ground rapidly in the battle against the virus.
The onset of the monsoon and a rise in influenza cases, coupled with relaxations in lockdown norms, have led to a huge spike in new cases in Bengaluru, said state government officials. Since 19 June, there have been 2,470 covid-19 positive cases. By comparison, between 8 March, when the city had its first case, and 18 June, Bengaluru had 844 cases. “When monsoon sets in, influenza cases go up," Dr V. Ravi, head of neurovirology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans), said. “However, not all ILI (influenza like illness) and SARI (severe acute respiratory infections) cases are covid-19 positive."
While the first few new cases were attributed to interstate movement of people, especially those returning from Maharashtra, the spike being witnessed now is due to a large number of ILI and SARI cases, data shows. “The spike is along expected lines," said B.H. Anil Kumar, commissioner, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).
The rapid rise in local infections and the possibility of community transmission will change the narrative of Bengaluru faring far better than other metros.
The B.S. Yediyurappa-led government of Karnataka was lauded for its efforts to keep the numbers low in the state and its capital, but the administration has fallen short in explaining why it was ranked eighth in testing averages, or its decision on lifting of the lockdown when a surge in cases was expected. “So far, we have been fortunate that we have not gone very high. I feel that the numbers we have got are very, very reasonable," Kumar said. A state government official, requesting anonymity, said: “Some infections went unchecked and then these turned into a breeding ground."
Much like other urban centres in India, Bengaluru is home to over 10 million people and a significant portion of them live in slums, ghettos and other localities with little room to follow social distancing norms.
Improper segregation of hazardous waste like used masks finding their way into regular waste and fecal matter flowing into larger water bodies has raised the risk of spreading the infection, officials say.