As Covid-19 Shrouds Southern India Yet Again, Bengaluru Emerges as The Epicentre


As the Covid-19 tsunami hurtles across India, ravaging lives and livelihoods and everything else that comes in its wake, its aftershocks are being felt down south too. Three states – Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu – are reporting fresh spikes in infections often scaling, and even surpassing, highs recorded during the pandemic’s first wave.

On Wednesday, Karnataka recorded 50,112 new coronavirus cases – its highest ever single-day record. Of these, Bengaluru alone accounted for 23,106 infections.

Crunching numbers

For more perspective, Wednesday’s active cases in the Karnataka capital reached 3.13 lakh: nearly six times that of Mumbai (56,153 active cases) and at least three times that of Delhi ( 91,859 active cases). The IT city is clearly in the eye of the Covid-19 storm.

The more than half lakh cases have pushed up the state’s current active caseload to over 4.8 lakh. Much like Delhi, Karnataka has been battling an oxygen crisis and struggling for hospital beds. The Karnataka High Court had recently even pulled up the state government over its ineffective management of the situation.

Twenty-four patients, 23 of them Covid- infected, had died in Karnataka’s Chamarajanagar allegedly due to oxygen shortage in the district hospital in a span of 24 hours on Monday.

Following the incident, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa convened a meeting with oxygen producers, where a number of decisions were taken to ensure the supply of an allocated quantity of oxygen to the state by the Centre. Among these were to reduce the time taken to refill oxygen tankers, provide a green corridor for faster commuting of oxygen tankers and avoid unnecessary delay at toll gates.

To further address the crisis, Yediyurappa has also constituted a core group of ministers to handle different aspects of Covid-19 control. Two of these ministers are doctors.

Highs and Lows

The Karnataka government is also contemplating a complete lockdown in the state for two weeks post-May 12. With many sectors namely manufacturing, construction, and garments factories operational at 50 per cent capacity and an unchecked vehicular movement, the two-week curfew from April 27 has been unable to curb the upward trend in infections.

By Thursday, total active cases could reach 5 lakh. At least 346 people succumbed to Covid-19 on Wednesday, another high.

Neighbouring Kerala too reported its highest numbers, with 41,953 cases in 24 hours, and an exorbitant positivity rate of 25.69 per cent. There are 3.75 lakh active cases currently but the government says that over 37 per cent of beds are still available as the health infrastructure has been ramped up enough.

Three districts – Ernakulam, Kozhikode and Malappuram – reported more cases than the capital Trivandrum. The state has ordered that all Panchayats in Ernakulam district that have more than 25 per cent of their population infected, will go in for a complete lockdown immediately. Ernakulam reported almost double the cases of Trivandrum on Wednesday.

While Tamil Nadu is slightly better off, it still recorded its highest ever single-day number of cases with over 23,000 people testing positive on Wednesday. The state has over 1.25 lakh active cases – 6,291 cases from Chennai alone. Chennai and its neighbouring Tiruvallur remain hotspots for the state. As many as 167 deaths were reported on Wednesday alone.

The two Telugu states – Telangana and Andhra Pradesh – are also witnessing a sharp spike owning to the double mutant B.1.617 which has now made its way to rural areas. While the Telangana government has ruled out lockdown, it has come under fire from the high court for not testing enough. It reported 6,361 cases in the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh is under a statewide curfew till May 18 wherein firms, shops, establishments, offices, educational institutions have been asked to shut at 12 pm. The decision was taken after the state tally crossed 20,000 cases.

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