INTERVIEW | We are vaccinated, ready for third wave, says Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar

With cinemas, auditoriums, Rangamandiras, multiplexes and pubs allowing 100 per cent seating capacity, there is a gnawing fear among people about a possible spike in numbers.

Published: 27th September 2021 03:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th September 2021 03:10 AM   |  A+A-

Karnataka Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar

Karnataka Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar (Photo| EPS)

Express News Service

With cinemas, auditoriums, Rangamandiras, multiplexes and pubs allowing 100 per cent seating capacity, there is a gnawing fear among people about a possible spike in numbers. Parents and school authorities are jittery about Covid-19 monitoring in schools. Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar says the government is reviewing the situation regularly.

There is talk about the imminent third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, how well are we prepared?

Pandemics are prone to multiple waves. The third wave may or may not hit us. However, it is our responsibility as a government to be prepared. We have augmented our capacity in beds and oxygen supply significantly. The number of ICU beds in Karnataka before Covid was only 725. Currently, the State has 3,877 ICU beds in government medical colleges and government hospitals -- an increase of 5-6 times. There were 4,847 oxygenated beds before Covid.

As of August 2021, the number of oxygenated beds has increased to 28,447, and regular beds have increased from 41,378 to 50,629. Pre-Covid, government hospitals and medical colleges had an oxygen capacity of 320 MT, which we augmented  to 1,207 MT as of August 2021. During the second wave, oxygen logistics was a huge challenge -- the number of cylinders before Covid was 2,180, but has increased to 13,588 cylinders now. The number of oxygen concentrators has gone up from 585 before Covid to 6,511 as of August 2021.

Parents are complaining that compliance with Covid-19 guidelines is not monitored in schools. Schools have been given clear instructions on steps to be followed. These measures are reviewed on a regular basis. If there are any violations, we will look into it.

Third-stage clinical trials for children’s vaccine are on, how long will they have to wait?

Vaccine trials for children are at various stages of completion. A couple of pharmaceutical 
companies are working on it. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is overseeing this process and we are hopeful that vaccines will be out soon.

Film theatres will have 100 per cent seating from Friday. As a doctor, do you foresee a risk because people are together inside for three hours?

The decision to allow 100 per cent seating in theatres in the state was taken after thorough deliberations. It is important to allow businesses to open, without compromising on safety. Only people vaccinated with at least one dose are allowed to enter, there will be two intervals and theatres will be sanitised after every show.

On September 17, a record number of people were vaccinated, but there has been a drop. Is it possible to vaccinate every one before the December deadline?

We administered 31.68 lakh doses on September 17, to pay tribute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his birthday. We conduct vaccination drives on Wednesdays with a target of 10 lakh doses, and last Wednesday, administered more than 10 lakh doses. We are confident of vaccinating all eligible adults by end of December 2021. People of Karnataka have been very cooperative and we have already achieved 78 per cent coverage in first dose. Most of the districts have coverage of over 90 per cent. Karnataka has an adult population of 4.9 crore, and two doses for the entire adult population means we need to administer 9.8 crore doses. We have to administer 4.35 crore more vaccine doses to complete vaccination.

The physically challenged remain unvaccinated. How will you reach them?

If a person is unable to walk up to the vaccination centre, the staff has been instructed to vaccinate them in their cars or wheelchairs outside the centre. We have also started a programme to vaccinate bedridden or critically disabled people.

The health department is seeking to give overworked health staff a holiday on Sundays, but don’t most people turn up for vaccination on that day?

Health workers have been working relentlessly since March 2020. Staffers responsible for vaccination have been working hard since January 2021. Most of them are overworked. Now that vaccination has reached a certain stage, it is important that they are given a well-deserved break.


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