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As Karnataka mulls home isolation for asymptomatic Covid-19 patients, Oppn questions its ability, medical experts divided

"It is shocking to see COVID-19 patients being turned down by the hospitals due to lack of beds. The government has failed in its duty to protect the citizens," former chief minister and Janata Dal (Secular) leader H D Kumaraswamy said.

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal | Bengaluru | Updated: July 3, 2020 10:22:00 am
Karnataka coronavirus cases, coronavirus cases Karnataka, Karnataka COVID patients food menu, COVID patients food menu Karnataka, India news, Indian Express Doctors are divided over the government mulling putting asymptomatic patients in home quarantine. (Express photo)

A day after the Karnataka government indicated that it would recommend home quarantine for asymptomatic Covid-19 patients in a bid to lessen the burden on hospitals, opposition leaders Thursday questioned the government’s ability to handle the situation while experts remained divided on the suggestion.

“It is shocking to see COVID-19 patients being turned down by the hospitals due to lack of beds. The government has failed in its duty to protect the citizens,” former chief minister and Janata Dal (Secular) leader H D Kumaraswamy said.

Criticising the government, he added, “The CM and his cabinet colleagues wasted precious time in mere talking for the last three months. As the escalated Covid numbers stare them in the face, they are now helpless.”

With 16,514 Covid-19 cases recorded to date across 30 districts in the state, the number of active cases in the state outnumbered cumulative recoveries on Wednesday yet again, after over a month’s gap.

According to statistics shared by the Department of Health and Family Welfare Services, Karnataka has 8,194 active Covid-19 cases as of July 1 as opposed to 8,063 discharged patients recorded till date. This has led to the recovery rate in the state dropping to 48.83 per cent.

At the same time, the recovery rate at Bengaluru is at 10.26 per cent — the least in Karnataka.

However, doctors working in hospitals in the city are divided over the government mulling over putting asymptomatic patients in home quarantine.

Dr Jagadish Hiremath, of ACE Suhas Hospital in Jigani, believes the move to be “not good”. “While the positive person might be asymptomatic, leaving him at home is fraught with the risk of community spread, especially in Bengaluru where isolation is not achievable due to high population density. Also, patients’ relatives who get exposed might be symptomatic leading to an increased caseload in isolation wards at Covid hospitals that are already full.”

He added that the incubation period can be as short as two days in a few people or as long as 15 days in others while the CDC (Center for Disease Control) gives an average of five to 6 days.

“During this period, the person might not have any symptoms and might even test negative. This makes it very difficult at present to say if community transmission has started or not. We will have a clearer picture in a week,” Dr Hiremath said.

On the contrary, Dr Srivatsa Lokeshwaran, Consultant, Interventional Pulmonology, Aster CMI Hospital, said he favoured the government’s likely decision .

“Considering the fact that asymptomatic patients were significantly occupying hospital beds with no beds available for those who are sicker and who actually need it more,” he said.

Dr Murali Chakravarthy, MD, Chairman, Central Infection Prevention and Control Committee, Fortis Hospital, recommends home quarantine for asymptomatic Covid-19 patients claiming that the chances of improvement of an asymptomatic patient is higher than worsening.

“Essentially, asymptomatic patients do not require any nursing or medical activity. Being at home also brings in community responsibility and family participation. Knowing that their dear and near are still at home would also gives patients a sense of relief, he said.

However, he added that a possible community transmission has begun in Bengaluru observing the huge rise in numbers on a daily basis. “It appears that community transmission is on in the city. However, until the government declares community transmission, it cannot be called so,” he said.

On home quarantine? Use pulse oximeter, say doctors

While patients are recommended to enforce home quarantine in a strict manner, doctors further recommended the use of pulse oximeters to keep a tab on their oxygen level and heart rate.

According to Dr Chakravarthy, patients in home quarantine should check their own oxygen level (normal 95 to 100), heart rate (normal 70 to 80), and document it.

“After this, the person must walk within the room for six minutes and recheck the oxygen saturation. If the oxygen saturation increases, that is normal. However, if it decreases, it is a red flag. The person must report to the hospital immediately,” he said.

Advising others at home, Dr Hiremath said maintaining a safe distance from the Covid-19 positive person is essential. “Others at home should wear a mask at all times and should ensure the patient is not in the same room when the mask is removed. All measures to isolate must be followed strictly and should not be taken emotionally,” he added.

Further, medical experts added that breathing difficulty, tiredness, cold, loss of smell, and taste are symptoms that the infection is on the rise when the patient should seek immediate medical assistance.

“It also becomes essential to be understanding as the patient will be in a fearful state. Others should keep in mind that the same is not stigmatised in any manner as it can affect recovery,” Dr Lokeshwaran advised.

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