Karnataka health minister B Sriramulu on Tuesday indicated that the government may consider imposing another lockdown in Bengaluru if the surge in novel coronavirus cases continues at the current pace, even as the state’s deputy CM CN Ashwathnarayana said that the situation does not warrant such a step at this stage.
"Yesterday (Monday), the CM had ordered sealing down of specific places that were identified. But if the spike in cases continues at the same pace, in future we will have to consider a lockdown yet again. We will have to think it over,” he told reporters after reviewing the situation at a government hospital in the city.
Blaming the recent rise in cases on people from other states travelling to Bengaluru, he said the health department will first consult experts on the need to impose another lockdown, and will then take the issue up with the CM BS Yediyurappa.
But officials News18 spoke to say another lockdown, even if considered, will not be imposed for the next 14 days. They said the immediate focus of the government is to carry out aggressive containment measures in the clusters that have been identified and a review will be conducted post the two-week period.
For its next step, the government in Karnataka is also keeping an eye on how the situation unfolds in Chennai, which has seen a second round of lockdown. Based on how it works, and at what cost economically, the administration may take a decision for Bengaluru at the end of two weeks.
The Karnataka government had on Monday sealed off five wards in the city as part of a revised containment strategy, under which any area which reports five or more cases will be sealed.
Bengaluru, with over 440 containment zones, has been the primary focus of the administration for the last two weeks, as the number of infections have nearly doubled to nearly 1,400.
Sriramulu's comment came on a day when Opposition leader and former CM HD Kumaraswamy tweeted that he felt a better way to control the spread of Covid-19 would be to impose a 20-day lockdown in Bengaluru.
Deputy CM CN Ashwathnarayana, who is also a member of the state’s Covid-19 task force, however, said things have not gone out of control yet to warrant any lockdown.
“The way forward is better management and better services. It is a thing we can handle, and effective management, facility, treatment and care are most important. If you look at the death rate and fatalities, it is not high," he told News18, when asked about Kumaraswamy's suggestion.
Violations on Rise
Bengaluru's spike in cases, officials have said, is also because of a worrying number of home quarantine violations. On Monday evening, after a high-level review meet chired by the CM, the city’s civic body had put out a fresh adivsory to resident welfare associations to step up vigil of violators.
Besides, a volunteer group at the block level is also being put together. There at more than 1.3 lakh people on home quarantine in the city - either because they are contacts of Covid-19-positive patients or because they have come from other states or countries. There have been complaints about roughly 40 per cent of them violating quarantine norms.
Ashwathnarayana said the government is trying to give a bigger role to resident welfare associations as well as neighbours in keeping a check on those who have been quarantined.
“We want alert neighbours to supervise and monitor their neighbours who are supposed to be on home quarantine for their own safety, and ensure that they stay home. People should be more responsible, if they are not responsible, we will have to enforce,” he said.
He further said that teams at the booth level (25 houses) will also monitor people on home quarantine and also look out for symptomatic people.
Bengaluru Mayor Gautam Kumar said the number containment zones may increase, based on emergence of cases every day. "Day-to-day the study happens and we analyse the situation and see the number of cases, to see what is happening and where," he told News 18.
Private Hospitals Roped In
The government has also roped in private hospitals to admit Covid-19 patients, in case there is a further spike in the coming days. One floor in each of the 510 identified hospitals has been set aside for Covid-19 patients. There is also a cap on treatment cost - patients can be charged Rs 5,200 rupees for a normal isolated bed per day.
Desperate for solutions, the Karnataka government is also consulting Kerala a second time on how the neighbouring state has been able to rein in numbers while Karnataka has faltered.
"Any good practices, understanding and experiences, good suggestions are most welcome. Any model anywhere, if it is practical and effective, we must adopt it in the interest of people. Having consultation is the way forward," Ashwathnarayana said.