Karnataka ranks tenth in states with the highest number of COVID-19 positive cases with 7,000, of which 2,956 are active cases, and 86 deaths, as on June 14. However, the state with a population of 6.5 crore has handled the situation by far better than many other states in the country to contain the spread and keep the numbers down.
Neighbouring Maharashtra leads the COVID-19 tally with 1,04,568 cases, of which 51,379 are active cases and 3,830 deaths. Early understanding of the problem and measures put in place helped Karnataka contain the pandemic and win laurels. Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Lav Agarwal, openly appreciated Karnataka’s Corona war rooms and technology used to provide information and statistics to citizens, the media and experts.
The state has two COVID-19 war rooms -- the state war room and the BBMP war room — which collate data on cases, areas, patients’ age, compounded growth rate, tests per million, cases per million, transmission type, deaths per million, positivity rate, active and former containment zones, quarantined numbers, etc. The New Indian Express takes a look at teams at various levels who played a stellar role in keeping figures down to impressively contain the spread.
BS YEDIYURAPPA, Chief Minister
At 78, BS Yediyurappa has been at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19. He was one of the first few chief ministers to take precautionary measures against the virus spread. On March 13, almost two weeks before the Union government ordered a lockdown, Yediyurappa had decided to announce a partial lockdown in high-risk districts. This was later extended to the entire state effectively slowing down the infection rates. Even as he steered his team of ministers and bureaucrats, Yediyurappa did not forget the frontline workers and announced insurance policies for policemen and Asha workers — who had been excluded in the Union government’s COVID insurance scheme.
On one side, he went on city tours to interact with residents and assess the economic impact of the lockdown and on the other, announced an economic relief package of over Rs 2000 crore to help struggling farmers and labourers. After the initial controversy, Yediyurappa decided to pay for tickets of migrants returning on Sharamik Express trains and KSRTC buses. He was also one of the first CMs to push for resuming economic activities to salvage revenues. He also ensured social harmony was not disrupted with his stern warning against communalising COVID.
Dr C N ASHWATH NARAYAN Deputy Chief Minister
Coupling his professional experience with best use of technology, Dr CN Ashwath Narayan pushed for telemedicine in Karnataka in the backdrop of COVID-19. From holding talks with industries, Nasscom, investors and IT-BT giants, he struck a balance between precaution and progress throughout the crisis. With video conferences, including one with the American Consul, he engaged with potential investors in the state in a post-COVID era.
Dr K SUDHAKAR Medical Education Minister
From responding to the opposition’s questions over COVID-19 in the Assembly to keeping track of every single COVID testing lab in the State, Dr K Sudhakar has been hands-on in handling COVID. Despite healthcare not being under his ministry directly, he was made in-charge of operations to contain the virus. The first of Karnataka ministers to push for TTT — Trace, Test and Treat formula, he has been at the forefront of ensuring virtual training for frontline workers, including doctors and nurses on handling COVID. Sudhakar cut across party and state lines to connect with Kerala Health Minister Shailaja to exchange best practices in containing the virus.
CHAMARAJANAGAR 1 CASE, NO DEATHS
Strict enforcement kept numbers almost zero. Chamarajanagar has turned into a role model district in Karnataka for remaining a green zone with just one positive case. Incidentally, the first and the only case is of a medical student from Mumbai who had come with his mother to his uncle’s house in Hanur. The district conducted more than 2,700 tests, all of which proved negative. As the backward district is situated between red zones in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Mysuru, the district administration took stringent measures to seal interstate, inter-district and inter taluk borders, besides enforcing strict lockdown norms to prevent the infection spread. They closed wildlife sanctuaries and places of worship. Village heads helped in fighting the virus effectively.
KODAGU 3 CASES, NO DEATHS
People’s support helped contain cases. Immense support from residents district and relevant district-level decisions helped Kodagu fight COVID efficiently, officials said. “The first major decision that helped us contain the pandemic was when we traced the route map of the first P-15 case and identified primary contacts within 24 hours. Timely orders from the DC and SP and team work too helped. Next important decision was when we closed borders with Kerala and further, local intelligence helped us trace inter-district and inter-state travellers. After the lockdown was relaxed, we ensured that inter-state travellers were shifted to institutional quarantine from the checkpost,” said Ananya Vasudev, in-charge official of NDRF. Kodagu DC Annies K Joy said that public support helped contain the disease.
UDUPI 1,005 CASES, NO DEATH
Impressive administration despite high numbers. Udupi has seen 1,005 positive cases and leads the districts with the highest tally in the state. But so far, it has kept its mortality to just one. The administration of district, which has seen a heavy influx from Maharashtra, Telangana, the Gulf and UAE, has been proactive in identifying, tracking, and quarantining the returnees. They tested vulnerable travellers on priority and identified and treated cases early. DC G Jagadeesha ensured proper communication with the public through short videos on awareness. Cases were managed in designated hospitals based on clinical categories. Asymptomatic patients were moved to government hospitals, but those who were critical were treated at Dr TMA Pai Hospital, which is attached to Manipal Academy of Higher Education.
MYSURU 114 CASES, NO DEATHS
The district had zero cases at one point. Mysuru’s district administration was the first to bring down active cases count to zero (now 20) during the first wave of COVID and has managed to keep the mortality at zero. Mysuru city managed to be one up on the disease despite the presence of multiple clusters — including the mysterious Nanjangud pharma case. The timely contact-tracing by surveillance teams led by district surveillance officer Dr T Shivaprasad, coupled with containment measures, acted as the first line of defence. The health team led by DHO Venkatesh and District Surgeon H R Rajeshwari offered top-notch treatment. The captain of the ship, DC Abhiram G Sankar, led the battle by setting up a COVID-designated hospital from scratch. The role of Police Commissioner Dr Chandragupta and SP C B Ryshyanth was commendable.
KOPPAL 13 CASES, NO DEATHS
Team work, planning behind success. Though people and officials took time to ‘realise’ the enormity of the pandemic in January-February, they got into the act as soon as the nationwide lockdown was announced in March-end. In fact, district, police, health and urban local body officials put in a lot of effort to preempt possibilities of an outbreak. The district administration also took up a vast awareness campaign in rural areas. An official said that Deputy Commissioner P Sunilkumar had a grasp on the imminent fallout of the pandemic. He was a step ahead in taking precautionary measures, such as identifying many government buildings for quarantine centres.
THE STARS AMONG OFFICIALS
Additional Chief Secretary, Health And Family Welfare Department
Initially, when the state started its war against COVID-19, there was no expert committee to study the virus strain here. But Jawaid Akhtar decided to form a technical expert committee of epidemiologists to evolve measures to contain the virus. Akhtar made a bold move of procuring Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) from China. Starting with zero PPEs to bringing in four lakh PPEs, it was a significant step. He also initiated training programmes in association with the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences for doctors, nurses and other staff on how to handle COVID cases. Akhtar also established tele-ICU and alarm tests, involving both public and private sectors.
PANKAJ KUMAR PANDEY
Commissioner, Health And Family Welfare Department
As the state health commissioner, Pankaj Kumar Pandey is one of the officials leading Karnataka’s fight against COVID-19. Pandey and his team ensured that the COVID containment measures started from January 30 itself. From screening of international passengers to stamping passengers for home quarantine and then bringing in the new quarantine rules of sending the home quarantined people to mass quarantine if they violated the rules, his directions were invaluable. His team also extended screening from the airport to other public places like the High Court, Vidhan Soudha, Vikas Soudha and MS Building.
Nodal Officer, Incharge Of State War Room
Munish Moudgil has left no stone unturned in providing day-to-day analysis of all districts from the state war room. He has even developed many apps to check on people with symptoms and those under home quarantine. His analyses have helped in identifying hot spots, clusters and risk areas using GIS analysis. Moudgil and his team finds out Moudgil and his team can find out whether a person has visited the fever clinic or not. If not, the health department is put on duty to get the person to do the tests. Similarly, the health of migrant labourers is tracked through apps. Another app keeps track of healthy people, primary and secondary contacts.
B H ANIL KUMAR
Commissioner, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike
The BBMP, which often recieves flak, has surprisingly done well during the COVID crisis. B H Anil Kumar, BBMP Commissioner, has been very active throughout and has ensured that BBMP officials are carrying out their duties. He formed quick response teams in all zones which are in charge of surveillance and quarantining of primary and secondary contacts. He and his officers have identified hotels, hostels and guest rooms as quarantine centres. He has taken the lead in creating containment zones and putting measures in place effectively. He has conducted many spot inspections to check the situation on the ground and advises officers on taking effective measures.
ABHIRAM G SANKAR
Deputy Commissioner, Mysuru
Mysuru DC Abhiram G Sankar is leading the COVID fight by example. From timely contract tracing to fighting fake news, his leadership has helped Mysuru move from top of the chart to the bottom. Abhiram successfully fought the first wave of the pandemic by bringing down 94 active cases to zero with zero mortality, a recognition which it holds till date. The DC has been instrumental in setting up a COVID-designated hospital from the scratch and handling of the mysterious Nanjangud pharma cluster case effectively. Endorsed even by his seniors, this 2011-batch IAS officer has tactfully fought fake news mills through his social media connect by providing first-hand information.
Using tech to tackle the virus
The COVID website — www.COVID19.karnataka.gov.in — is a one-stop shop for all information, including media bulletins, software and apps. Addresses of inter-state arrivals without revealing their names and personal details are also put up on the site.
The Apthamitra helpline with a toll-free number 14410 and the app were launched to help identify people with ILI, SARI and COVID-like symptoms. It also intends to identify low-risk people having some symptoms similar to COVID and provide them telemedicine support.
CONTACT TRACING & DASOHA 2020 APPS
The Contact Tracing app has a database of primary and secondary contacts of COVID-positive patients. The DASOHA 2020 app, along with the Hunger Helpline 155214, were launched to provide food to migrant workers, unorganised sector labourers and others.
SEVA SINDHU APP
The Seva Sindhu app deals with the exodus and influx of migrant labourers, and also helps people register themselves for travelling in or out of Karnataka. It now also allows applicants to register themselves for seeking one-time financial relief meant for barbers, washermen, auto and cab drivers, powerloom and handloom workers, etc.
The geospatial map, from the Karnataka State Remote Sensing Applications Centre, provides information on containment zones, hotposts, patient location, primary and secondary contacts, testing and collection centres, isolation centres, medical colleges, hospitals and fever clinics.