Bengaluru: As covid-19 cases spike in Bengaluru, senior government officials are trying to crowdsource ideas to improve contact tracing efforts and gain a grip over the health crisis which has spiralled out of control.
In the last month or so, every positive patient has had an average of around 6.29 contacts. Experts and officials said lack of manpower and unwillingness of people to voluntarily report their contacts due to the stigma attached to the infection has added to the challenges in India’s technology capital.
After doing well to contain the spread and trace contacts during the lockdown period, Karnataka has since lagged behind in contact tracing. Authorities had traced at least 2,666 primary and secondary contacts for the first covid-19 positive person detected in Bengaluru (and Karnataka) on 8 March and kept the momentum until the beginning of July.
“Every suggestion leads to a branching of ideas and this leads to more ideas,” said P. Manivannan, senior IAS official and incharge of Bommanahalli zone in Bengaluru.
Manivannan emphasises the need to rope in the community to help combine efforts to combat the crisis. The state government had earlier roped in resident welfare associations and the neighbourhood in its home quarantine exercise, sought volunteers in helping police during the lockdown and for efforts like contact tracing to increase community engagement, sensitise people and mitigate the shortage of manpower.
Crowdsourcing suggestions are believed to complement the technological interventions and efforts of ground-level workers deployed across Bengaluru, which has recorded nearly 80,000 covid-19 cases of which 33,489 are active.
Contact tracing efforts in several parts of the country have suffered due to the shortage of manpower to carry out labour-intensive exercise, forcing some states to focus their energies on other issues. Segregating contacts into high and low risk to reduce the pressure on the exercise hasn’t helped either.
The source of infection in 87,521 cases out of the total 1,96,494 in the state which includes 17,774 ILI (influenza-like illness) and 3835 SARI (severe acute respiratory infection) remains unknown or “under investigation” across Karnataka, according to government data.
Several people who have tested positive claim they have never been contacted by authorities after testing positive. Officials and experts said the fear of being quarantined has forced many to hide their contacts.
The lack of manpower has led to poor quality of data collected in the contact tracing exercise which Prime Minister Narendra Modi advocated as one of the essential plans to ‘track the pandemic’.
“We need to follow a new mantra – all those who have come in contact with an infected person should be traced and tested within 72 hours,” the PM had said in his address to the chief ministers of the 10 most covid-19 impacted states on Tuesday.
In neighbouring Kerala, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led state government is attempting to collect call detail records (CDRs) of covid-19 patients for reasons including the difficulty to trace primary contacts of those who are hospitalised. “CDRs are used to collect patient information for the sake of public health and safety,” the chief minister said on Wednesday.
Nidheesh M.K from Ernakulum contributed to this story.