INTERVIEW | Contact tracing is crucial: Karnataka COVID-19 war room chief

As the number of COVID-19 cases increase in Karnataka, the challenge is not just testing, but contact tracing too.

Published: 19th April 2020 06:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th April 2020 11:46 AM   |  A+A-

Representational Image. (Photo | PTI)

By Express News Service

As the number of COVID-19 cases increases in Karnataka, the challenge is not just testing, but contact tracing too.

In an interview with Bosky Khanna, Munish Moudgil, nodal officer, in charge of the state war room, appreciated the efforts of Kerala which have led to a dip in their numbers.

He also pointed to Udupi and Mangaluru in the state, which despite having the highest number of per capita travellers, have the lowest growth rate in COVID cases.

How many people, departments are working to tackle COVID-19?

The pandemic is being fought on multiple dimensions, multiple fronts and not just by one individual. Every citizen is critical and has a role to play. All the resources of various departments, like labour and industries, have been pooled in to fight COVID. There are around one lakh police constables and over 50,000 health workers. Overall, there are 5-6 lakh employees in the state government, who can be given a role. But at present, around half of them are working on containing COVID. The rest are on reserve.

There has been a rise in the number of cases. What could be the reason?

One part of that could be more tests. It was not that we were doing lesser number of tests and the numbers were less. On an average, for every 100 tests, two are found positive in the state. That means we are conducting tests on 98 people who are healthy which means we are trying hard to find people with COVID.

How do you talk to patients and trace their contact details?

There is a team of counsellors who talk to patients and get details. Generally, people are cooperating so we get the best information. The mobile number of the patient is taken and the people whom the person spoke to in the last 14 days are picked. In today’s world, apart from the family, one meets 80-90% of the people after talking to them over the phone. There could be some whom one meets without calling, but that number is very small. We take details of who they spoke to and track them. Even if one tries to hide or forgotten his/her contacts, we get them. The mobile numbers and towers are tracked to trace the contacts. Through Arogya Setu, people whom one contacted knowingly or unknowingly are tracked. But if one has not downloaded the app, then tracking people is difficult.

More tests are happening and more cases are being identified. Many are symptomatic and many others are also asymptomatic. Is that a matter of concern?

Virtually, the entire population is asymptomatic, but that is not the criteria for testing. It is to know who a positive person was in touch with in the last few days, and it is extremely important to pick those people. If you see the all-India average, the detection rate is 5%, while it is roughly 2% for Karnataka.

The graph in Karnataka is rising as compared to Kerala. What is it that they are doing better and we are not?

This is in the hands of the people more than anyone else. The credit goes to the people of Kerala because they are sensible. In Karnataka too, Udupi has the highest number of people who have returned from foreign countries but has the lowest case growth rate. But it is not the same everywhere as dissemination and understanding of information is not the same. Our performance in Udupi and Mangaluru is better than Kerala’s. The people in our state have shown exemplary behaviour, but Kerala has done better.  

How many people are put on contact tracing?

We assume that one person, on an average, would have 50 contacts. One tracker can trace 10-20 people in 24 hours. For every new case, we need double the number of trackers. On average, Karnataka is getting 30 positive cases every day. In a very efficient system, we need 100-120 people to track their contacts. We already have 2,000 people in contact tracing.


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