BBMP says it has doubled its testing team and cases remain stable.
Despite a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the state, people choose not to wear masks in indoor and closed spaces like the metro, malls, buses and the airport. The Karnataka Government released guidelines on Dec. 26 mandating wearing of masks in indoor and closed spaces like pubs, bars, theatres, buses and trains. The decision came in view of the rising COVID-19 cases in China and other parts of the world. Reports show China reported nearly 13,000 COVID-19 related deaths in hospitals between January 13 and 19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say that “masks and respirators are effective at reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, when worn consistently and correctly.”
A girl entering the Nadaprabhu Kempegowda Majestic metro station without a mask was asked to wear one by the security guards. She started frisking her bag for the mask and put it on and removed it the moment after the security check-in at the metro. She said, “I was immunized. I have also taken my booster dose. Why should I wear one?”
A security guard at Sampige Road metro station said, “We ask them to wear masks at check-in points and they wear it then. But they take it off after the security check-in is done. We cannot keep doing this. They should also have some responsibility and start wearing it for their own safety.”
The Station Controller of Majestic metro station said, “We are educating the public and asking them to wear masks. But since there is no penalty nor fines, people do not wear them. We can only ask them to wear masks, but ultimately it is up to them.”
The circular also states that “Districts and Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) shall make available adequate testing teams so that symptomatic testing is not missed out.”
Community Health Officer Dr. Balasundar, Public Health at BBMP said, “Cases in Bengaluru were not much till December. They increased around December 28 and people started worrying about the new variants.”
He added, “Our teams are ordered to conduct at least 5,000 tests per day. We had 141 testing teams but due to the surge, we doubled them to 282.”
He further said, “However, cases are stable now and not increasing and we have a less than one percent positive rate. There are only about 25-30 cases per day.”
The circular also states that hospitals should maintain a minimal number of isolation beds for COVID-19 patients. This is being ensured in most hospitals like Victoria Hospital. It has 30 beds for isolation and nine intensive care unit beds with ventilators and oxygen intact. Public Relations Officer at Victoria Hospital,Girish said, “We have the facilities ready but all the patients go to Bowring Hospital first. Our hospital does not have COVID-19 patients because they are first referred to Bowring Hospital and then Charaka Clinic in Jayanagar. If the patient load is more and the beds are full, only then patientsare transferred here.”
Bowring currently has 11 COVID-19 patients, a nursing officer at Victoria Hospital said. “Our hospital is equipped with these beds and oxygen is also well-stocked if cases are transferred here.”
The circular by the Commissionerate of Health and Family Welfare Service says all theatre-goers are mandated to wear an N-95 face mask and the entry staff would have to ensure this.
The manager of Inox theatre at Mantri Square mall said, “We are requesting people to wear masks. They usually cooperate with us. It is not mandated in the mall that we are established at but in theatres, we make sure people wear masks because it is a closed space and people sit close to each other. The N-95 face mask was only mandated till January 2, it is no more necessary so any mask is fine.”
Meera, her sister and her two children, all without masks, were exploring the food counters in Mantri Square mall. She said, “No one is wearing a mask so I am also not wearing one. No one said it is necessary to wear one here. Anyway, both my sister and I have got our booster doses. My children have also taken two doses.”
The mall manager said, “For their own security, everyone should wear a mask but we have not made it mandatory in our mall. However, we do suggest wearing masks and following guidelines. Masks were mandatory last week but this week, there has been relaxation.”
Dr. Ananth Ram, Assistant Professor of Community Medicine at Ramaiah Medical College said, “It is the duty of the government to think for the best of people and come up with scientifically backed measures to control such a spread. But we should understand that guidelines are not the same as the regulatory approach and in this case, guidelines are sufficient.”
He said, “They should keep educating people but people should be able to weigh in the risk factor and make choices accordingly. People should not be ignorant about the issue and there should be adequate education and awareness about it.”