After a relative lull at the start of the year Karnataka, and capital Bengaluru, have recorded a steep increase in the number of new Covid cases that has overwhelmed the healthcare system.
What went wrong? And what should be done next?
Bengaluru is a medical hub and now also home to around two lakh active Covid cases.
“This is a socio-economic virus… and we’d anticipated a second wave. The technical advisory committee had given us a forewarning… that by the end of February we could see a second wave coming,” Dr Vishal Rao, the Dean at the HCG Cancer Center’s Centre for Academic Research and a member of the state’s Covid task force, told NDTV.
“Bengaluru being a socio-economic hub seems to be the most likely target for the virus because we have extremely high social activity and economic activity both.”
He added that there is a large, vulnerable population in the state too, pointing to the nearly 10 per cent that is over 60 years old – which is widely considered the most vulnerable age group.
“I also feel that as a member of this committee the citizens also let us down. This virus doesn’t have hands and legs. This virus is moved by us,” he said.
“The government should have been a little pre-emptive. When there was a short spike they government could have gone for an early lockdown and aggressive curbs,” Dr Bhargav, the Chief Intensivist at Bengaluru’s Specialist Hospital, told NDTV.
The city went from only 21,000 active cases at the start of April to around two lakh now – a nearly tenfold increase.
April also saw three bypolls in the north of the state – with social distancing not always enforced during campaigning and voting. Ugadi, or the new year festival, was also observed after the spike began.
“It (the second wave) is primarily there because of the free movement of the people. What could have been done, though redundant now, is adherence to Covid norms even after the caseload had dropped,” Dr Aditya S Chowti, Chief of Internal Medicine at Specialist Hospital, said.
Looking ahead the hope is that the two-week shutdown will give some breathing space.
Dr Rao said the lockdown by itself could not be a solution.
“Lockdown, in my observation, is a way to prepare. It is not a solution by itself. Our key aspects of preparation include oxygen and manpower. While we have beds – the shortage is of oxygen and manpower. I think the next two weeks will be crucial for us to get ready,” he said.
“During this period the other mantra to follow is vaccination. There will be a dip due to the lockdown and this is where hospitals and NGOs should come together to assist the government and ramp up home vaccination,” he added.
Dr Bhargav felt a variant of the virus could also be adding to the caseload.
“I believe there could be a new variant of the virus that we may be seeing in Bengaluru. Maybe aggressive genetic sequencing could help find new ways of overcoming this,” he said.
The responsibility of the people – to observe Covid protocols and get vaccinated.
The responsibility of authorities – to lead by example and use these two weeks wisely.