Contact tracing in shambles in Bengaluru after spike

Contact tracing in shambles in Bengaluru after spike in Covid-19 cases

A man walks in front of sealed down area in Sanjaynagar, Bengaluru, on Friday. DH Photo/ Janardhan B K

Covid-19 contact tracing — one of the crucial aspects in containing the outbreak, where the state excelled a while ago — is in disarray in Bengaluru right when it is needed the most.

Following a big surge in cases since June 27, the contact and travel history of patients is no longer being released in the daily bulletin issued by the health and family welfare department.

There have been 8,592 positive cases in the city between July 2 and July 9. Till June 26, all the contact and background details of patients were up to date, with the city reporting only 114 cases. 

But on June 28 and 29, when the city saw a huge spurt, tracing history was not released in the bulletin.

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Interestingly, contact tracing is fumbling despite the BBMP, in an order on May 1, appointing 80,000 staff with 8,000 Health Survey Teams (HST) along with ASHA workers to conduct door-to-door health check ups, screening and background screening. 

A senior officer from the BBMP painted an alarming picture, saying that contact tracing is in shambles and that the situation is going out of control.

The official blamed it on BBMP workers who, he said, were not reporting for duty, while ASHA workers were unable to do their job out of fear of contracting the contagious disease.

The contact tracing stage is now gone. Now, only those who are testing positive and their care being given importance, the official said.

Dr Giridhara R Babu, an epidemiologist and member of the technical advisory group for Covid-19, said the link workers, who were earlier working for public health services, were shifted to solid waste management.

"They should be brought back to the health department because they know everyone in their community," he said and urged the BBMP to "decentralise" urban health centres.

BBMP Commissioner B H Anil Kumar told DH that all the 8,000 HSTs were functioning on the ground, but due to a sudden spike in cases the BBMP has not been able to forward the details to the health department for bulletin.

But ASHA workers are keeping track of Covid patients' background and their contacts and registering it on their log books, he said.

The BBMP is also seeking help from the police department in contact tracing. They can be traced through their call detail record. But that process is yet to start, said Kumar.