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Increase of Covid clusters in Karnataka could be resurgence of virus: Experts

State Health Commissioner D Randeep said that cluster outbreaks are common but the number of cases coming up in each of the clusters is concerning.

Published: 27th November 2021 06:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th November 2021 09:18 AM   |  A+A-

A migrant labourer being tested for Covid-19 at Kempegowda Bus Station in Bengaluru on Friday, Nov 26, 2021

A migrant labourer being tested for Covid-19 at Kempegowda Bus Station in Bengaluru on Friday, Nov 26, 2021. (Photo | Express, Vinod Kumar T)

Express News Service

BENGALURU: With the increase in Covid 19 clusters indicating a resurgence of covid 19 in the state, the health department along with the Technical Advisory Committee is stepping up measures to contain the spread.

While the officials are thinking of changing the testing patterns, on an emergency basis, the genome sequencing committee is sequencing the samples collected from the clusters to see if it is the same delta variant that is increasing the number of cases or whether there is any new variant or mutation that is being seen.

Speaking to TNIE, State Health Commissioner, D Randeep said, "Outbreaks of clusters are common. We have at least seven such clusters now. But the number of cases that are coming up in these clusters has taken us by surprise and it calls for reassessing of the covid 19 situation in the state."

While the reasons for a few of the recent cluster outbreaks are closed congregations, hostel stay and travel, there are cases like that of Bengaluru's cluster of Spurthy College of Nursing where none of the students had any travel history or didn't attend any close door event. Experts say that the number of cases in the Dharwad cluster, Bengaluru's Bommasandra school and the Mysuru one is alarming and calls for immediate attention to find the variant behind these clusters.

If the cluster is caused by the Delta variant there is no reason to worry. However, if it is the new variant detected in Botswana and South Africa, it is a cause of concern, said Dr. Pradeep Banandur, head of the epidemiology department at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) and member of COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee, adding that the samples have been sent for genomic sequencing, to ascertain the above.

In Bengaluru, Dr. KV Thrilok Chandra, Special Commissioner (Health), Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike said that from the earlier genomic sequencing done on previous clusters no different variant was reported. They all belonged to the Delta variant.

With respect to emerging clusters in the past two days, Dr. Chandra said," Once in a while we will get such clusters but they are one-off cases. The week-on-week positivity rate has not increased. However, we need to be watchful."

Meanwhile, the state health department is also proposing changing the testing strategy. Recently, on the advice of TAC after the number of covid 19 cases began to reduce, the department had not only gone for target testing but also had limited the samples being collected to 30,000 in Bengaluru and 60,000 in the State. However, now the department also wants to reintroduce random testing to identify asymptomatic patients, which according to D Randeep could be more problematic.

"In these cluster cases, though the majority of it has been breakthrough infections, we have seen that they are mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic. This gives more reason now to see if we have to get back to random testing. If the majority are asymptomatic then they may be silently spreading the infection and we need to catch that soon. We intend to do random testing in offices, educational institutions, crowded markets, with traders and gatherings for quickly identifying COVID positive patients and isolating them to arrest the virus spread," D Randeep added.

A meeting with experts from TAC will also be held to discuss these issues and come up with stringent measures to contain the spread in the state. Dr. Manjunath CN, Director, Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology said warned that Covid 19 is still not over and there should be no reason for any kind of complacency including wearing of masks, avoiding gatherings and closed-door events.

"It is definitely resurgence of covid and also reminder that Covid is not over. Wearing a mask is a Must. Getting oneself tested if they have a cold, cough or fever is also a must. Hospitals should not ignore attributing covid symptoms to other diseases. Testing has to be upped," he said.

Karnataka heightens surveillance of international travellers

With the new Covid variant, B.1.1529, detected in Botswana and South Africa, the state government is increasing surveillance of all international travellers. A three-pronged strategy will be followed: Screening and testing of travellers and their contacts, routine sentinel surveillance and surge surveillance, as well as, timely sending of RT-PCR positive samples to designated INSACOG Genomic Sequencing Laboratories.



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