Civic chief pulls up officials for laxity in testing, contact tracing

‘Data-based intervention in testing and vaccination key to curb second wave’

Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad pulled up health officials for laxity in testing and contact tracing, even as a second wave of COVID-19 has hit the city.

“There are gaps in targeted testing and vaccination in the city, without which it will be tough to combat the second wave. Data-based intervention is the need of the hour,” Mr. Prasad said in a video conference with all health officials of the city on Monday.

“Positivity rate among ILI-SARI cases being reported from private hospitals is 40%, while it is around 5% in the tests we are carrying out, clearly showing we are not doing targeted testing. Wards reporting zero cases and those reporting hundreds of cases a day, both are presently testing almost the same number of people. This will only waste our resources,” he said.

Vaccination drive

Mr. Prasad said in wards reporting higher number of cases, vaccination must also be taken up on a priority basis. “Primary Health Centres should mobilise eligible beneficiaries of the vaccine from lower income groups by creating awareness and arranging transport, for which the civic body will bear all costs,” he said.

Detailing the strategies for targeted testing, he said all those with any symptoms have to be tested as the spread of the virus seems to be more from symptomatic patients – ILI-SARI cases being reported from private hospitals, cases being reported at fever clinics, primary and secondary contacts and comorbid senior citizens around containment zones.

He also instructed PHCs to ask pharmacies in their areas to collect data of all those buying cold, cough and fever medicines; this data must be collected every day and these patients tested, he said.

People from high-risk areas

Those who have returned from high risk areas — the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, Maharashtra, Kerala and Punjab — have to be retested on the seventh day of their arrival, he said. Mr. Prasad also asked officials to put up mobile testing units at all crowded places and on a priority basis to test those with symptoms.

Mr. Prasad said the Union Ministry for Health and Family Welfare had set a target of 30 contacts per positive case, even as the civic body was only tracing 10 contacts per case today.

“There is duplication of work happening in contact tracing — while the health officers are carrying out tracing, the Booth Level Officers are also carrying out this exercise parallely and reporting it to revenue officers. They need to report to PHCs and avoiding duplication will help trace more contacts,” he said.

Incomplete contact information

The city’s civic body today faces a peculiar problem: 18% to 25% of COVID-19 patients are hard to find, as the address and contact details they submitted during swab collection is incomplete or faulty. This has also hit contact tracing.

“Even after repeated instructions, I don’t understand why the full address, Pin Code and contact numbers of those who have been tested are not being collected. This has become a huge problem for treatment and contact tracing. I want the medical officers to be on the street, visit PHCs and fix all the gaps. I will be forced to suspend officials if it is not immediately corrected,” civic commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad said, pulling up officials at a video conference with health officials on Monday.

Rajendra Cholan, Special Commissioner, Health said presently in 18%-25% of positive cases, the addresses and contact information was incomplete, of which 8% of the cases were from private labs and the rest from PHCs.

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