Once a ‘green district’, Chamarajanagar saw massive COVID-19 surge in April


During the second wave, active cases in the district shot up to 2,390 on April 30 from 34 on March 31

Chamarajanagar, which managed to remain COVID-19 free for over three months after the pandemic broke out last year in Karnataka and was declared a green district, has seen a moving growth rate (MGR) of nearly six times more than the rest of Karnataka (excluding Bengaluru Urban) in terms of active cases during the second wave.

Since March 30, excluding Bengaluru Urban, rest of Karnataka (29 districts) collectively recorded 1,087% growth rate in active cases. In Chamarajanagar, this increased by 5,844%.

Active cases in the district shot up to 2,390 on April 30 from 34 on March 31. As on May 3, active cases stood at 3,098, bringing Chamarajanagar among the group of 19 districts that have over 3,000 active cases.

From 17 active cases on February 28, the number nearly doubled in a month on March 31. Active cases started increasing from April 7 and touched 313 on April 15 from 179 on April 7. This number more than doubled to touch 637 on April 20 and stood at 2,390 on April 30.

Besides, this district has recorded a 45% increase in the 28-day MGR of positivity cases since March 31 and is now one among the top 10 districts, according to an analysis by Project Jeevan Raksha, a public-private partnership initiative involving Public Health Foundation of India, Indian Medical Association and Proxima, a management consulting firm.

Mysore Sanjeev, convener of Project Jeevan Raksha, said nearly 6,000% MGR of active cases in Chamarajanagar even after 15 months into the pandemic, clearly confirms complete breakdown of containment management here.

“We are recording hospitalisation rate of around 30% during the second wave. Chamarajanagar needs approximately 1,000 beds to treat the current active cases and at least 100-150 ventilators. Unfortunately, the district is not equipped to handle the influx of patients. Nearly half of the new cases reported daily are under home isolation that need regular and proper monitoring,” he said.

According to projections by experts, cases will start declining in Bengaluru Urban May 10 onwards. However, what is worrisome is that there will be a steep rise in cases in the rest of Karnataka after that. “We have been discussing this in our meetings with the government. The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) has recommended that there should be district specific plans for pandemic management. We should now strengthen the health infrastructure and necessary consumables, including oxygen, in the districts,” said C.N. Manjunath, nodal officer for labs and testing in the State’s COVID-19 task force.

V. Ravi, nodal officer for genomic confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 in Karnataka, said Karnataka should now be considered as a country as different districts will witness a surge at different points. “Earlier, Bengaluru Urban recorded 70% of the daily total caseload. But now the surge in districts is 50% of the total caseload. This will further increase and we need proper management strategies for the districts too,” he said.

A senior health official admitted that management of the pandemic has become difficult due to the unprecedented surge in cases during the second wave.

“We had underestimated the second wave and were not prepared. It is a challenge to sustain the same pace as our systems were designed to manage short-term crises,” he added.

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