Surge points to community spread, local circulation of virus: Experts

An ambulance coming out of Padarayanapura in Bengaluru on Friday.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

The sudden surge in COVID-19 cases in the State, especially Bengaluru, has resulted in a “catch-22” situation. While the huge spike day after day is making contact tracing impossible, poor contact tracing is further leading to the rapid spread of infection.

Four months after the first case was reported on March 9, the total tally crossed 50,000 and death toll crossed 1,000 on Thursday. While the surge was expected as it is only natural that epidemics in different parts of the country will peak at different times, experts say that the spread points to community transmission and local circulation of the virus.

In clusters

Attributing the surging numbers to the cumulative effect of inter-State and inter-district migrations/travel, C.N. Manjunath, nodal officer for labs and testing in the State’s COVID-19 task force, said the concept of living in clusters (houses that are attached to each other with common toilets) in Bengaluru has only added to the problem.

“The spike in COVID-19 cases in June can be divided into two stages. First, the gradual but worrying increase between June 1 and June 26 followed by a sharp increase in cases since June 26. Now the spread is nothing but community transmission,” said Dr. Manjunath. He pointed out that some areas that were declared containment zones in June are now seeing a second wave. “Delayed transmission is taking place in areas that were initially declared containment zones. People in these areas are still getting infected now,” he said.

As it is practically impossible for contact tracing when the surge is in thousands every day, the doctor said civil society should take up contact tracing apart from the infected individual.

‘No city immune’

Giridhara R. Babu, member of the State’s COVID-19 technical advisory committee, said no city is immune to a surging caseload during a pandemic. But what matters most is the way the State/civic authorities respond to the surge, he said.

“The surge is not a freak occurrence. There were several systematic problems with surveillance, testing, contact tracing, and tracking, which resulted in several missed cases and the virus continued to spread. There is a delay in analysing and reporting the results, often up to five days. In this time, people keep moving around freely, and potentially spreading the disease. Hence, the government has now made it mandatory for people who go in for tests to quarantine themselves till the test report arrives,” he said.

To manage the surge, there should be increased testing, strict adherence to timelines by the BBMP in reaching the house of infected individuals within 12 hours after confirmation, robust follow-up of ILI and SARI cases and their isolation, and adherence to home isolation guidelines by people, Dr. Babu said.

Geometric progression

V. Ravi, senior professor and head of Neuro Virology at NIMHANS, who is part of the State’s COVID-19 expert committee, said the progression was geometric.

“Doubling of cases has been rapid mainly because after lockdown people did not follow precautions. During a pandemic, apart from preventive measures and treatment strategies adopted by the government, people also have a responsibility. They are the carriers and unless they take it upon themselves to stop the spread, it is difficult to cut transmission,” Dr. Ravi said.

As the ongoing season is also conducive for high transmission of various infections, people have to behave sensibly, he added.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 11:52:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/surge-points-to-community-spread-local-circulation-of-virus-experts/article32119245.ece

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