‘Contact tracing’ model falters as cases pile up

Officials say fatigued staff, resource management to blame

Published: 11th July 2020 06:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th July 2020 06:25 AM   |  A+A-

Facility for COVID patients treatment centre is all set at Bengaluru International Exhibition Centre (BIEC) in Bengaluru on Thursday

Facility for COVID patients treatment centre is all set at Bengaluru International Exhibition Centre (BIEC) in Bengaluru on Thursday

Express News Service

BENGALURU: On June 19, the Union Health Ministry lauded Karnataka’s handling of Covid-19, especially its mechanism for contact tracing. Just three weeks down the line, contact tracing has taken a big hit. On Thursday alone, of the reported 2,228 new Covid cases, contact tracing was ‘underway’ for 1,784 cases. The biggest chunk came from Bengaluru. 

Common people and elected representatives are raising concerns over health department and district administration officials not contacting them despite being primary and secondary contacts of positive patients. Between July 3 and July 9, of the 13,089 cases reported across the state, contact tracing of 10,230 patients was still underway. Government sources said that contacts of a very small percentage of positive cases have been traced so far. As on Thursday, sources of transmission for 13,395 of the total 31,105 cases were still unknown. 

On Thursday evening, Tabu Rao, wife of former Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president and Gandhinagar MLA Dinesh Gundu Rao, took to her social media pages to share her concerns. “One of our staff members developed Covid-like symptoms and we got him tested on June 30. The results July 3 returned positive. The BBMP should have contacted him immediately and shifted him to a Covid care centre. There was no such call and we had to admit him to a designated hospital on our own. The BBMP should have started contact tracing without delay, but no action has been taken to date and no one can imagine how many people could have contracted the virus from him,” she wrote. 

Similar concerns have been raised by many citizens. A minister’s personal staff said that they did not receive any contact tracing calls from the BBMP even after the minister’s kin tested positive earlier in June. TNIE on July 2 reported that the Karnataka government was mulling to do away with contact tracing as suggested by medical experts at a meeting with Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa. “It is a waste of resources, effort and time to trace primary and secondary contacts now with cases piling up by the thousands every day. The focus is now to reduce mortality rates.

We have gone past the scenario where contact tracing was key,” said a source from the government closely supervising the pandemic situation. Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar said, “The same people who have been doing contact tracing for the last four months are continuing with it and are fatigued. I agree that it has not been as good in the last two weeks as it was in the last 4 months. We have decided to change our model to local, booth level contact tracing and will ensure it is done,” he said. 


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