One year of COVID-19: Bengaluru’s journey through calm to storm and back

Senior citizens wait at observation room after the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, in Bengaluru on March 6, 2021.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

When the first COVID-19 case was reported in the city a year ago, little did anyone imagine the paradigm shift it would bring to the way we lived; masks, sanitisers, and social distancing have now become the norm. And Bengaluru, which to this day reports the maximum number of cases in the State, has gone through the whole curve — from strict lockdown to easing of restrictions, which caused a huge spike in cases, and a subsequent dip in cases.

The city also witnessed a change in leadership, with the transfer of the then Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner B.H. Anil Kumar. Mr. Anil Kumar told The Hindu that several initiatives taken up in the city to contain the spread of the virus were a first in the country, including leveraging technology to analyse cases, setting up a war room, defining containment zones, setting up COVID care centres, coordinating with residents’ welfare associations and roping in citizen volunteers for contact tracing, monitoring containment zones, and supplying essentials and medicines to areas/localities sealed down.

“We learnt and adapted as the cases increased. Though we were ill-equipped to handle the pandemic, we recovered quickly by taking various measures to contain the spread,” he said.

Despite these firsts, cases in the city threatened to spiral out of control following the easing of restrictions. The only solution to check this, according to civic chief N. Manjunath Prasad, who took over from Mr. Anil Kumar, was to ramp up testing of the targeted population, including those with Influenza-like Illness/Severe Acute Respiratory Infection, senior citizens, and those with co-morbidities. From around 5,000 tests a day, the numbers were increased to nearly 60,000. For this, the BBMP set up more laboratories and also took on board doctors, lab technicians, and other medical professionals.

The other challenges before the BBMP were the shortage of ambulances, enforcement of COVID-appropriate behaviour, and dispelling fear and stigma by creating more awareness among citizens. “We had to tackle each issue separately,” he said.

Both Mr. Anil Kumar and Mr. Prasad maintained that the trajectory of the spread would have been quite different had private healthcare institutions joined hands with the government. “Government hospitals were overwhelmed and there was a shortage of beds. If the private healthcare institutions had come on board sooner, the number of fatalities could have been lower,” said Mr. Anil Kumar. Concurring, his successor said that many came on board only after show-cause notices were issued and cases filed under the Disaster Management Act.

The way forward is testing, isolation, and early hospitalisation when necessary. “We had to overcome several challenges to get where we are today; we are confident of breaking the chain. We now are focussing on ramping up testing and increasing vaccination coverage,” said Mr. Prasad.

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Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 10:14:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/one-year-of-covid-19-bengalurus-journey-through-calm-to-storm-and-back/article34014180.ece

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