Karnataka - one of the worst hit states in the country in the second wave of COVID-19, has been witnessing a slump in the new case numbers over the last few weeks. The authorities, however, are of the view that It is far too early to relax.
The number of COVID-19 outnumbered fresh infections in Karnataka yet again on Tuesday, as the state reported 38,224 discharges and 22,758 new cases. Of the new cases reported on Tuesday, 6,243 were from Bengaluru.
"If you look at the numbers, it has been reducing very drastically. Except for a few districts where the numbers are not coming down. In most of the districts and Bengaluru, the numbers have come down. The number should come down drastically so that we can unlock from the lockdown," Deputy Chief Minister Dr Ashwath Narayan told NDTV.
The state is in the middle of a strict shutdown. But that doesn't mean any major reduction in the demand for oxygen in Bengaluru as ICU beds still remain full.
"Since the number has come down very drastically - now it is 5,000 odd cases in Bengaluru (daily infections) - from when it had almost reached 25,000, it is a great relief. When it comes to ICU or ventilator, however, there is still a lot of demand," he said.
An extra concern is that the virus is now being reported more from rural Karnataka with often a weak health infrastructure.
Dr Vishal Rao of the HCG hospitals and a member of the Karnataka Covid task force said, "It is going to be an uphill task as we move towards the districts as the health care systems get overburdened there. Even the oxygen management. In cities, we have the privilege that oxygen comes to the doorstep of the hospital. Whereas in villages and districts, hospitals have to carry their cylinders to refill them. Public health experts and virologists are repeatedly trying to enhance the surveillance in villages to ensure we are better prepared in villages. This is the time to ramp up the preparation for villages."
He also said that the lockdown "definitely had a very significant impact" on the daily infections. "From 50,000 cases everyday, today we are at around 20,000 odd cases.It is not a reassurance that once the lockdown is lifted, we will continue to have these low numbers. But what is of concern is that the positivity rate still sticks at around 20 per cent and the mortality has jumped to about 2 per cent. We need to understand that when the waves flatten, it is not that the virus is taking rest. It is a socio-economic virus and the more we improve interactions without safety, we are going to explode and expand the spread of this virus. At an individual level we need to take up responsibility to curb the spread of this virus," said Dr Rao
When it comes to Bengaluru, Dr Rao said the lockdown had reduced the number of emergency oxygen requirements and the panic. "That is because the virus has stopped moving because we have stopped moving," he said. "Generally, as a rule, a health care system will not be able to cope with a sudden rise in numbers, emergency oxygen requirements or health care. The other big concern is trained manpower."
Mucormycosis, commonly known as Black Fungus, is also on the rise in the state. Dr Rao said: "At HCG we are treating 30 cases and the number is on the rise. In Karnataka, currently, it must be about 700 cases. It looks like an epidemic within a pandemic at this juncture. We need to understand the source of this infection, have early detection and treatment. A committee will give a clear strategy for the state. We don't need to scare people about black fungus, we need to create awareness. What we have seen in the patients - they have all been Covid positive, most have been given steroids, majority had high sugar. 30 to 40 per cent had been given oxygen and most important - none of them had been vaccinated."