‘Trace, Track, Test And Treat’: Karnataka Minister In Charge Of Covid-19 War Room Explains Strategy To Beat The Virus
In an interview to Swarajya, Karnataka’s Minister for Medical Education Dr K Sudhakar speaks about the state’s preparedness to tackle the Covid-19 menace.
The number of coronavirus patients in Karnataka is rising. The positive cases in certain districts like Belagavi have seen a sudden surge. As of this morning (16 April), 313 Covid-19 positive cases have been confirmed. Of these, 82 have been discharged and 13 have been Covid-19 fatalities.
But capital city Bengaluru has been able to manage the situation quite well, be it catering to the migrant workers or providing online training to doctors and healthcare workers, or ensuring a lockdown.
The number of active cases in the city are 34 and two new cases have been reported today. Of the total 71 positive cases reported so far in Bengaluru city, 35 have been discharged. The situation is under control thanks to the ‘four T’ formula of ‘Trace, Track, Test and Treat’, explains Minister for Medical Education Dr K Sudhakar.
Activey monitoring the war-room and leading the Covid-19 operations in the city, Dr Sudhakar has been implementing innovative solutions. While online training with a SOP was launched for doctors and healthcare professionals across the state last week, two days ago he also inaugurated a special tele ICU patients monitoring task force.
This will ensure specialist doctors can monitor and attend to but aren’t exposed to the patients. A first-of-its-kind initiative in the country, this will ensure "all patients recover completely and Karnataka achieves zero Covid-19 mortality rate," says Sudhakar.
Excerpts from an interview:
1. How is Bengaluru faring, although Karnataka had come down to number 11/13 in the country, still the secondary attack rate of Covid-19 is quite high, while globally it is 3, but ours is pretty high?
We have been able to flatten the curve in Bengaluru. Nearly 70 of the 215 Covid-19 patients in Karnataka had a travel history and most likely the infections must have occurred locally with those who were exposed to foreign returnees. Globally, the secondary attack rate of Covid-19 is high but our numbers are slightly higher because the average number of people at home is larger than those in Western countries.
2. As far as testing is concerned, people have also been saying our testing is much lower. Your comment.
From day one, we adopted the four T strategy: Trace, Track, Test and Treat with big focus on testing. With that in mind, we increased the number of Covid-19 labs to 16 in the state, up from two to three in the beginning of February. Further, we have ordered 100,000 rapid test kits, which we will receive in the next three to four days. We will use them to increase random testing. Karnataka’s testing average stands at 131 per million people while the country’s average stood at 133 per million people.
3. How does the war room work? What are the kind of tasks being accomplished through this?
Our task force team is one of the best in the country. A team of officers from various departments of government along with experts are working round-the-clock, creating and mapping database of Covid-19 positive cases. The team and its contact circle in Bengaluru ensure that the measures to curb the deadly virus are put in place beforehand.
The information flow to the war room ensures the local transmission is contained. Police department is helping us in cases where violations of home quarantine are witnessed.
We get direct access to real-time data from health and police departments. The war room also keeps track of sanitation work in the city including cleaning of roads and disposal of waste, and ensures complete coordination and quick action.
4. What measures are being taken for the safety of the frontline health workers?
I can assure you that the protection and safety of our doctors, nurses and health workers is our top most priority and we have already started procuring PPEs to meet the demand of the state. In fact, order for more than sufficient numbers of PPEs has been placed and we will receive the supply shortly.
5. In terms of the lockdown, is it not important to fix a supply chain mechanism first, especially to address panic buying that is disrupting social distancing. What is being done in this regard?
There is no reason for panic buying as government has permitted movement of essentials goods including groceries, milk, food items, fruit, vegetables among others. Also, major food retailers and eataries have started home delivery much to the relief of people. Our government, our party units and several NGOs are reaching out to ensure migrants and the poor receive cooked food and food items for cooking. We are doing everything possible to reduce the hardships of people in these difficult times.
6. As far as cluster transmission is concerned, Nanjangud is turning into a mystery spot. With over 45 cases today, what is the action being taken in this regard?
I agree. Most of the new cases in Karnataka are largely contacts of those who had travelled and got in contact with those infected. This was true in case of workers of a pharma company in Nanjangud. The cases here make up for nearly 11 per cent of all cases in the state. Government is ensuring strict lockdown is in place in areas around the pharmaceutical company, including Hebya and Someshwara villages found vulnerable to the deadly virus. Besides, we are increasing the number of testing in these areas.
7. Given the Dharavi scenario in Mumbai, we do have quite a few slums in Bengaluru too. What are the measures being taken to sanitise those and ensure there is no outbreak there?
Government and volunteers are creating awareness over social distancing at slum clusters during the ongoing lockdown. We are taking every step including random testing, major awareness campaign to sensitise people, apart from providing them their daily necessities like groceries, medicine etc. Of course, all this under strict lockdown conditions.
8. Has there been an increase in paediatric Covid-19 cases and how do you intend to prepare for it?
Considering the increase in the number of paediatric Covid-19 positive cases in the state, I’ve already instructed all government and private medical colleges and hospitals treating Covid-19 cases to set up dedicated paediatric/neonatal intensive care units.
We have the capacities to deal with existing facilities to handle the current situation, even for paediatric cases. But in future we need to be ready with dedicated wards to treat paediatric patients if the number goes up.
9. Given that you now have the additional charge of your district, which also has a sizeable population dependent on agriculture, how do you foresee the next fortnight for farmers in the region? Especially given the rising temperatures and drinking water crisis, which is looming.
The B S Yediyurappa government is the most pro-farmer government and has stood by and taken care of the interests of our farmers and farming community. The Chief Minister has already announced a number of measures to the farmers to soften the impact on the economy during the lockdown. These include transport of agri products, allowing farmers to sell their products directly, buying fruits and vegetables directly from HOPCOMS etc.
As far as my district and its difficulties pertaining to water are concerned, I promise maximum support from the government to farmers in our region. These are distressful times. But the HV Valley project that kicked off after our government took office is ensuring filling of lakes in Chikkaballapura district, and helping raise water table in the district.
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