Over 45,000 cases daily, Karnataka chooses ‘last resort’: total lockdown

Karnataka lockdown: On Friday evening, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa announced a full lockdown in the state from May 10 to May 24 to break the chain of Covid transmission in the state.

With Karnataka clocking over 45,000 Covid cases daily in the past week, the BJP government has moved to impose a total lockdown in the state — the “last resort” prescribed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tackle the surge in his address to the nation two weeks ago.

On Friday evening, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa announced a full lockdown in the state from May 10 to May 24 to break the chain of Covid transmission in the state.

“There will be no movement of people allowed in this period. There will be a window of four hours between 6 am and 10 am for people to buy essential items. There will be no industrial activity but in-situ construction is allowed,” Yediyurappa said.

The announcement of the lockdown came on a day when the state reported a record 592 deaths, including 346 in the city of Bengaluru.

Earlier in the day, Yediyurappa held a meeting with top officials and ministers to discuss the modalities for a total lockdown. “People are not following social distancing norms and a lockdown seems invariable. Strict measures will have to be imposed and I will do it,” Yediyurappa said after visiting a temple on Friday morning.

The state’s Health Ministry, a team of advisors constituted by the Health department and even ministers from Karnataka at the state and Centre had been pushing for a lockdown. Union Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, who is mobilising supplies of Remdesivir, had suggested that a lockdown is necessary to reduce the pressure on supplies.

“There is a lot of pressure on us from the local level also to control the spread of the virus. People’s representatives have also realised that a lockdown is the only way to control the spread,” Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar said.

“The Health department is of the view that a lockdown is very important. If we do not break the 14-day chain of transmission, it will spread rapidly and our healthcare infrastructure will not be sufficient. There will be more lives lost and more problems. To prevent this from happening, we have to take strong measures,” he said.

Karnataka has witnessed a massive Covid surge since the last week of March, and recorded over 50,000 positive cases on May 5 with 346 deaths. Out of the 50,112 positive cases and 346 deaths on May 5, Bengaluru city recorded 23,106 cases and 161 deaths.

While Bengaluru has been the epicentre of the second wave, the rest of the state is also showing rising numbers with the 185 deaths reported in other parts on May 5 being the highest recorded outside the city.

The seven-day average of cases, which was in the range of 4000 in the first week of April in Karnataka, has reached 45,036 in the last seven days. The positivity rate is now in excess of 30 per cent compared to the first week of April when it was in the range of seven per cent. In the first wave last year, the positivity rate had peaked at around 15 per cent.

There has been an average of 273 deaths reported in the state each day in the last week and the case fatality rate has risen from 0.44 to 1.21 in the week.

The healthcare infrastructure in Karnataka has been found woefully wanting, especially in the city of Bengaluru. And there is fear that as the virus spreads in the hinterland where resources are even more meagre, it could bring the entire system to its knees. On May 1, oxygen shortage at a state hospital in the backward district of Chamarajanagar caused 24 deaths.

According to experts, oxygen supplies, lack of ICU beds with oxygen and ventilators, shortages in drugs like Remdesivir and lack of manpower to facilitate the scale-up of infrastructure are major problems in the state.

The government is hoping a lockdown will help in augmenting facilities in the state. A proposal is under consideration to increase the number of ICU beds in Bengaluru by 2,000 by setting up 500-bed makeshift hospitals in each of the four city zones.

Karnataka has been under a two-week shutdown since April 27 but the curbs have not been imposed strictly and movement of people has been largely unrestricted in rural parts. Essential services have been available from 6 am to 10 am and industrial units, liquor outlets have been open while public transport remained off the roads.

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