Karnataka Minister Indicates Tough Measures after July 7 to Control Covid-19 Spread in State

Karnataka Revenue Minister R Ashoka on Monday indicated that more stringent rules are likely to be put in place after July 7 to control the spread of COVID-19 in the city and other parts of the state, amid spike in cases.

According to reports, the government was waiting for SSLC (class 10) exams to end on July 4 to take some stringent measures to control the infections.

"For everything, I think you will have to wait till July 7 in the interest of the children. After July 7 Chief Minister will take decision to bring in several changes," Ashoka said in response to a question about imposing restrictions like on inter-state travel, among others, amid increase in cases.

The minister, who is also in-charge for Covid management in Bengaluru, said according to reports from experts in July and August cases will increase the world over, in India and similarly in the state and Bengaluru also, and in this regard, precautionary measures will be taken.

Following the recent spike in cases, there was speculation last week that the government may reimpose lockdown and few ministers had even indicated about this, but the government subsequently ruled out any such measure stating that improving state's economy and carrying out developmental activities were equally important.

Karnataka on Sunday recorded a biggest single-day spike of over 1,200 new COVID-19 cases and 16 related fatalities, taking the total number of infections in the state to 13,190 and the death toll to 207.

Out of 1,267 fresh cases reported in the state yesterday, 783 cases were from Bengaluru urban alone.

The city also tops the list of districts with positive cases in the state, with 3,314 infections.

Ashoka said he has visited dedicated COVID hospitals in the city, including Victoria Hospital, and has requested the Doctors and medical staff there to be mentally prepared to continue to work in the same way they are doing now for about six more months.

He said the challenge before the government is making beds available for an increasing number of patients and providing them treatment.

"All necessary measures are being taken in this regard."

In response to a question, he said both spread of virus and increase in testing has led to surge in number of cases getting reported.

Noting that till now private testing centres used to directly inform the patients in case one tests positive, Ashoka said directions have been given asking them to first upload the information on BBMP (city civic body) and ICMR portals and the authorities will inform the patients along with instructions about what they should be doing next.

"This is to ensure that patients don't panic and don't directly come to hospitals...health officers at ward level on getting the information will go to the patient, check whether they are symptomatic or not. If symptomatic, they will be sent to a designated hospital and those asymptomatic will be sent to COVID Care Centres," he said.

This will also ensure that there is no delay or hassle for patients during the process, he added.

Noting that there are complaints about doctors at dedicated hospitals not visiting patients regularly and it is difficult to track with all staff there wearing PPE kits, Ashoka said "We have given instructions for doctors and staff to wear stickers and to maintain duty register."

He also said, beds are being numbered at COVID wards and will be linked to patient number, so it can be identified easily whenever they are vacant and new patients can be assigned to it easily.

Pointing out that staff working at hospitals like lift operators, ambulance drivers, cleaning staff are working with apprehensions and some are even applying for leave, Ashoka said he has spoken to the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary to incentivize them in some way by increasing payment and encourage them to continue with the work.

"It has also come to my notice about the quality of food being provided to patients at some hospitals," he said, adding, measures will be taken to provide quality food.

About 85 assistant doctors will be appointed on contract basis in BBMP limits in about three days and all are AYUSH and dental doctors and will work under the supervision of senior doctors, the minister said.

A meeting of BBMP corporators belonging to all political parties will be called soon, Ashoka said.

Keeping social distancing in mind, the meeting will be called in three batches, regarding managing the sealed areas in their wards.

In every ward, NGOs will be identified and they will be tasked with assisting in sealing activities, shifting of patients to hospitals and creating awareness, among other things, he said.

The minister said out of Rs 742 crore SDRF (State disaster response fund) with the department, Rs 380 crore has been released for COVID management, which includes- Rs 232 crore released to Deputy Commissioners of districts, Rs 70 crore for health department, Rs 50 crore for BBMP, Rs 12 crore for Home Department.

A sum of Rs 362 crore is still available with the department, he added.