Updated: April 21, 2021 8:25:35 am
Late Monday evening, as a prison ambulance with a body inside rolled up ahead of a line of six waiting ambulances, at the Hosapalya crematorium in south Bengaluru, a group of waiting drivers heckled the prison ambulance driver for jumping the queue.
The crematorium had already carried out 14 cremations by its scheduled closing time of 5.30 pm on Monday and there were still six bodies waiting in ambulances lined up at the entrance of the crematorium.
“We are following a first-come-first-serve system for use of the two incinerators. Yesterday there were 31 bodies that had to be cremated. The crematorium was working till 2 am this morning and reopened again at 5 am. Since October 2020, one or two Covid bodies were being brought in for cremation every day, but now the numbers are in two digits,” said Chandra Kumar, a worker at the crematorium.
A Covid-19 surge in Bengaluru is starting to exert pressure on healthcare and allied systems like it did at the peak of the first wave in August-September 2020.
While Bengaluru reported 261 deaths per million population in September 2020 at the peak of the first wave of the coronavirus, it is now reporting 521 deaths per million population, compared to 188 per million for the state.
On Monday, 97 deaths were reported in Bengaluru, the highest since the second wave began around March 23 this year; until then, daily deaths were in the range of 10 to 20.
However, the case fatality rate (CFR or deaths as percentage of confirmed cases) in the city is down from the peak of 2 per cent last year to 1 per cent as on April 19.
The Hosapalya electric crematorium of the Bengaluru city corporation is among seven in the city that the state government has set aside exclusively for free-of-cost Covid-19 cremations.
“We have to wait seven to eight hours before the bodies that we bring in are cremated,” said Rudresh S, an ambulance driver waiting in line at the Hosapalya crematorium.
With the rise in demand, crematoriums have begun using a token system to ensure that bodies are cremated in the order of their arrival.
Hospitals in Bengaluru are also reporting intense pressure due to a steep rise in Covid-19 cases since late March. As on April 19, Bengaluru had 1,03,178 active cases, around 72 per cent of the 1,42,084 active cases in the state.
“We opened a new wing to accommodate Covid-19 patients this week. Within two hours, all 100 beds were taken. Today we decided to stop taking non-Covid patients. There are no beds available in the ICU,” said a senior professor at a private medical college hospital in south Bengaluru.
“The government needs to lock down for a few days and open up its own facilities such as Victoria Hospital and Jayadeva Hospital. That way, we will get at least 300 more ICU beds. The situation in Bengaluru is going to get worse than Delhi and Mumbai, where there is more bed capacity. We need to reduce cases by 50 per cent soon,” the professor said.
As on Monday evening, 97 per cent of the 291 ICU ventilator beds in Bengaluru were occupied and 90 per cent of the 2,673 oxygenated beds in High Dependency Units (HDU), across 17 government hospitals and 69 private hospitals, were occupied as per official data provided by the city corporation.
The Karnataka government held an all-party meeting on Tuesday to decide measures to tackle the Covid-19 crisis. State Revenue Minister R Ashok has indicated that the government would prefer to restrict the gathering of people without imposing a lockdown that affects economic activity but others in the government have called for a brief lockdown to enable a reduction in the growing pressure on the healthcare system.
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