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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Explained: Why is Dakshina Kannada Karnataka’s new Covid-19 hotspot?

With 3,553 new cases and 52 deaths since August 10, the district’s Covid-19 figures have overtaken that of Bengaluru Urban.

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal , Edited by Explained Desk | Bengaluru |
Updated: August 24, 2021 9:48:22 am
A health worker collects samples of passengers for Covid-19 test at city railway station in Bengaluru. (Photo: PTI)

Dakshina Kannada in Karnataka has been witnessing a surge in Covid-19 cases and fatalities for nearly a fortnight, with the district continuing to outnumber the figures being reported from Bengaluru Urban which has otherwise been recording the highest numbers in the state.

While Dakshina Kannada reported 3,553 new cases and 52 deaths since August 10, Bengaluru Urban reported 3,374 and 40, respectively, during the same period. The Indian Express spoke to the district administration and the health officials in charge of Covid-19 management to pinpoint the reasons behind the shift in trend.

Students make up nearly 15% of daily new cases

District Health Officer (DHO) Dr Kishore Kumar said students entering the state from neighbouring Kerala constitute nearly 15 per cent of the new cases daily. “Even though their RT-PCR results are negative upon entry, we have been observing that many of them test positive nearly a week after they arrive.”

Dr Kumar, however, ruled out the possibility of a sudden spurt in new cases and fatalities in the district. “We have brought down the test positivity rate (TPR) which was 8-9 per cent last month to 3-3.5 per cent this month. We have also enhanced testing to nearly 11,000, which is a couple of thousands more than the target set by the state authorities,” he said.

Proximity to Kerala

When asked whether the rise in cases can be attributed to the district’s proximity to Kerala which continues to be the country’s Covid-19 hotspot, the DHO said the screening at border check-posts have kept the spread in check. “The TPR has been 10-12 per cent in the neighbouring Kasaragod district in Kerala. Our decision to continue strict checks at the borders have, in a way, kept the situation under control,” he explained.

The district authorities, however, acknowledged that people from Kasaragod travel to Mangaluru for most of their immediate needs, with the city being a hub of education and healthcare. “Mangaluru is indeed the closest city for the residents of Kasaragod as they have to travel double the distance to reach Kannur in their same state otherwise. Nonetheless, non-essential travel has been observed in many cases, forcing the police to send people back,” a senior officer from the district administration said.

When asked about the recent protests being held at the border check-points against the Covid guidelines in force, the officer said, “This is no time to protest but to realise that each citizen can contribute towards containing the pandemic better. Guidelines need to be followed.”

Reluctance by Covid-19 patients to move to CCCs

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, during his recent visit to Dakshina Kannada, had asked the district administration to ensure that Covid-positive individuals are mandatorily shifted to Covid Care Centres (CCCs) instead of allowing home isolation.

“It is imperative that we classify patients as symptomatic and non-symptomatic and shift them to CCCs to control the spread of the virus. Patients can be allowed to be in home isolation only after they spend the initial 10 days since testing positive at CCCs. This would keep others at home safe,” Bommai had suggested.

DHO Dr Kumar revealed that most patients are reluctant to shift to a CCC. “We have been able to convince more people in the last few days as our staff has been generating more awareness on the fact that they would be attended to by health professionals round-the-clock if they are at a CCC, as opposed to a daily visit if in home isolation. More officials are now travelling daily to the homes of patients for the same and the results have started to show,” he said.

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What does the death audit indicate?

With Dakshina Kannada reporting most Covid-19 fatalities in the state, the district administration claimed that death audits were conducted every alternate day. Officials attributed the rise in death toll to the hesitation shown by some individuals to seek timely medical intervention and to patients who suffer comorbidities but fail to report their symptoms.

“A majority of the fatalities noted here are of people aged above 60. Patients tend to get admitted to a hospital only when things go out of control. Most recent deaths were among patients who came to a hospital only after the oxygen saturation levels fell below 75 per cent. This, along with the comorbid conditions faced by senior citizens, has contributed to the rise in Covid deaths,” the DHO explained.

What measures have been taken to contain further spread?

The Dakshina Kannada district administration has revised its Covid management strategy to ensure that at least four houses around the residence of a positive person is declared a micro-containment zone.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of the non-vaccinated population (aged below 18) being more vulnerable to a possible third wave of the pandemic, paediatric health infrastructure is also being ramped up.

“Each taluk hospital has been equipped with paediatric primary care units. More doctors and other related medical staff have been hired and more people will be added to the workforce as and when required,” Deputy Commissioner (DC) K V Rajendra said.

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He added that nearly 2,700 beds have been set up in 36 CCCs, and 118 private hospitals and clinics asked to be prepared to manage patients in the event of a sudden peak. “A 13,000-litre medical oxygen plant is being set up at Wenlock District Hospital in addition to a 12,000-litre oxygen plant which is already functioning,” the DC added.

The DHO said vaccination coverage has also been boosted in border areas as an added measure.

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