Border districts in Karnataka see sharp rise in COVID-19 cases

The districts bordering Kerala — Dakshina Kannada (and the adjoining Udupi), Kodagu, Mysuru, and Chamarajanagar — have seen an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the past one month. Together, these districts have recorded 43.9% of the total caseload (47,100) and 36.2% of the total deaths (811) reported in the State from July 27 to August 27.

Bengaluru Urban, which had become Karnataka’s epicentre of COVID-19 with the spiralling of cases and fatalities during the second wave, contributed to 23.4% (11,034) of the total caseload and 16.8% (137) of the total deaths reported during this period.

Dakshina Kannada, which has recorded over one lakh (1,09,200) total COVID-19 cases so far, witnessed 160 deaths in the past one month alone. Bengaluru Urban, which has recorded 12,36,615 cases so far (over 12 times more cases than Dakshina Kannada), witnessed 137 deaths during this period. On several days during this period, the number of daily cases reported in Dakshina Kannada outnumbered that in Bengaluru Urban.

Experts say this is a worrying trend as these districts border Kerala, which has been witnessing an unprecedented surge in cases. The State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) that discussed the Kerala situation at its meeting on Thursday has recommended that district authorities should continue to maintain strict vigil at the borders.

Among students

The TAC noted that students from Kerala, who are coming to Karnataka with COVID-19 negative reports, are turning out to be positive during the repeat test on the seventh day. Health officials informed the TAC that 620 such incidents have been reported in Dakshina Kannada and 141 in Udupi. “Many of the primary contacts of these positive cases are also testing positive and the students (who are positive) are not ready to get isolated at COVID Care Centres. The colleges are also not agreeing to this,” an official informed the TAC.

Following this, the TAC recommended that the principals of educational institutions (in case of students), heads of offices (in case of employees), and their contacts who receive these persons from Kerala should strictly ensure that all students/employees compulsorily bring negative RT-PCR certificate that is not older than 72 hours, irrespective of their COVID-19 vaccination status (one or two doses). “The validity of such certificates should be for one week,” the TAC recommended.

C.N. Manjunath, director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, said it was important for even fully vaccinated people to come with a negative certificate or be quarantined for seven days and tested again on the seventh day. “The test positivity rate in Kerala is alarmingly high and should be contained there itself. Any State with such a high positivity rate has to be isolated till the TPR comes down to below 5%. Otherwise, the risk of transmission to other States is always high,” he said.

Asymptomatic carriers

“Even if people are fully vaccinated, there is every possibility that many of them will be asymptomatic carriers, thereby spreading the infection. They can become silent super-spreaders, and so we need to do everything possible to check this,” he said.

V. Ravi, member of the TAC and nodal officer for genomic confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 in Karnataka, said it was important for officials to maintain a test ratio of 1:20 — test 20 primary and household contacts of every positive case — in these districts. “This is the only way to keep the TPR below 5%. The second wave also began with a few clusters reported from Dakshina Kannada and Mangaluru. We should not let this happen again,” he said.

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