COVID-19 testing to be increased to 1 lakh a day

Booth-level committees to be revived, says Health Minister

The city reported nearly 5,000 COVID-19 positive cases on Wednesday. Towards minimising the second wave and breaking the chain of spread, Minister for Health K. Sudhakar said the government was adopting a simple strategy – enforcement and stringent measures in place and increasing vaccinations among the general population.

On Thursday, the Minister chaired a review meeting with officials from Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bengaluru (Urban) and Bengaluru (Rural) districts.

Speaking to reporters later, he said the meeting had decided to ramp up testing up to 1 lakh a day, besides reactivating the booth-level committees that were set up earlier.

“The earlier target for testing for the BBMP was 40,000 a day. But with nearly 5,000 cases being reported, there is a need to increase this to 1 lakh, since the target for contact tracing for every positive case is also 20 (primary and secondary),” he said.

There are more than 8,500 booths across the city. Last year, efforts were made to have booth-level committees comprising health officials, local residents and members of self-help groups, non-governmental organisations etc.

“This was, however, not activated 100% earlier. Now, these committees will be responsible for conducting a door-to-door survey at the booth level, ascertain how many citizens have been vaccinated, how many have symptoms and ensure they get tested, how many have tested positive and ensure that they have been isolated, apart from checking their health parameters,” the Minister said and claimed that this activity at the lowest level will help in implementation of measures to check the spread of the pandemic.

Dr. Sudhakar also pointed out that the existing fever clinics, local pharmacies, private clinics and hospitals had already been directed to report any ILI/ SARI cases.

With regard to arrangement in place for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, he said the BBMP had arranged for 250 ambulances, at least one per ward. He also said that there were beds available in government hospitals, government medical colleges and hospitals, private hospitals and private medical colleges and hospitals.

“The government has already issued an order mandating 50% of beds to be reserved for treatment of COVID-19. We will have a discussion in this regard with private medical colleges and hospitals and private hospitals today and tomorrow. That apart, an order on how much of the reserved beds will be filled with government quota will also be issued soon,” he said.

Dr. Sudhakar claimed that there were nearly 1,000 beds available in government health institutions, while also stating that compared to last year, the number of oxygenated beds had increased by six times. He said the Health Department did not anticipate any shortfall in ICU ventilator beds. He admitted that the city may need 4,000 beds (in government-run and private health institutions). This requirement may be revised based on the trajectory, as per the Technical Advisory Committee, after around 2 weeks.

He urged citizens to cooperate with the BBMP when officials come asking them to be tested, apart from avoiding stepping out of home unnecessarily, follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour, and avoid public places and huge gatherings, such as pubs, restaurants, marriages etc.

The BBMP, he added, had already requisitioned 2,000 home guards to assist the marshals to conduct surprise checks and levy fines on those found to be violating COVID-19 protocols. He also said he would coordinate with the Home Department, Director General of Police and Inspector General of Police, and City Police Commissioner on enforcement of COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.

Responding to a question on violations of protocols in various political meetings and gatherings, especially in the light of the polls round the corner, Dr. Sudhakar said the political parties should own moral responsibility and ensure all protocols and guidelines are adhered to.

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