Having taken stern measures when the spread was minimal and now on the back foot when there has been a spike, lawmakers in Karnataka are resorting to steps that may do little to contain the surge leading to a situation where it is losing ground rapidly in the battle against the virus.
The onset of monsoon and rise of influenza, one of the manifestations of covid-19, coupled with lifting of the lockdown and disregard for social distancing are two widely cited reasons by Karnataka government authorities to explain the sharp surge in locally transmitted cases of covid-19 in Bengaluru.
In the last eight days, 1,549 new covid-19 cases were reported from Bengaluru, over 60% of all 2,531 cases recorded in India’s technology capital from 8 May when the city detected its first positive.
"When monsoon sets in, influenza cases go up," Dr V. Ravi, the head of Neurovirology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans), said.
While the first wave of increase in numbers were attributed to interstate movement of persons, especially those who returned from Maharashtra, the spike being witnessed now is due to a large number of ILI (influenza like illnesses) and SARI (severe acute respiratory infections), data shows.
“The spike is on expected lines," said B.H. Anil Kumar, commissioner of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP, the city’s civic body).
The rapid rise in local infections and not acknowledging community transmission has slowly chewed into the narrative that the city has fared better than its counterparts across the country and globally to contain the spread of the virus.
However, not all ILI and SARI cases are covid-19 positive, Ravi adds
The B.S.Yediyurappa-led state government was lauded for its efforts to keep the numbers low in the state and in its capital but the administration falls short of explaining why it is ranked eighth in testing averages or its decision on lifting of the lockdown when such a spike was indeed ‘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 adds.
Another official said that “some amount of infections went unchecked" and then turned into a breeding ground.
Making matters worse, the state health department has removed the column that specifies the source of infection in a tacit admission that community transmission was already taking place. 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 cramped localities with little room to follow measures like social distancing.
Improper segregation of hazardous waste like used masks finding their way into regular piles of waste and fecal matter flowing into larger water bodies has raised the risk of spreading the infection further in Bengaluru, officials say.
Data shows that out of all cases recorded so far, at least 425 cases in Bengaluru are under investigation, 627 are ILI, 135 SARI cases, 194 cases attributed to people with domestic travel history and 83 to international and around 479 are primary contacts.
The state government announced that there will be a total lockdown on all Sundays post 5 July and the night curfew will be increased by an hour and will now be applicable from 8 pm to 5 am.
“We had 596 cases today. The experts advised CM to increase curfew by one hour and make Sundays from July a curfew day. How will this help? Other than focus on masks, what is the plan to contain cases," posted Vinay Sreenivasa, an activist.
Legislators from Bengaluru also claim that they are as much in the dark and are dependent on news sites for information on latest developments taken by the government on covid-19 like the lockdown or its lifting.
The Yediyurappa government has categorically denied that there will be another lockdown and has been insistent on reopening more businesses and activities to help revive the state’s fledgling economy and acute fund crunch.