Karnataka Covid-19 cases plateau but threat looms large

Covid-19 cases in Karnataka plateau but virus still a threat

The state's Covid-19 outbreak has plateaued but that does not mean that the virus has gone away, an expert analysis shows

Students of Maharani College attend a class after authorities allowed reopening of the degree colleges, in Bengaluru on Tuesday. DH Photo/B H Shivakumar

Covid-19 cases in virus-battered Karnataka have plateaued, according to data from a research project, while a mathematical model at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) predicted a reduction in cases from late March.

But a top government official warned against laxity, saying that the state is not in the clear for another five-six months.

Projections by the Jeevan Raksha Project, backed by the Public Health Foundation of India, show that Karnataka’s total coronavirus numbers will have reached 9,25,000 by December 12. The state’s current total Covid caseload is 8,62,804 cases. 

The group’s projections have been mostly on the mark since August despite the odd surprise in the battle against an unpredictable virus. The November forecast is a case in point.

In October, the group predicted that there would be one million Covid-19 cases in Karnataka by November, but that projection didn’t materialise.

Sanjeev Mysore, convenor of the Project, said changing dynamics on the ground had forestalled that number.

“Instead, over a four-week period from October 8 to November 12, the growth rate of new cases fell from 60% to 20%. In the case of deaths, the rate fell by 80%,” said Sanjeev.

“Clearly, aggressive testing on the part of the government, plus awareness within the public is keeping numbers low. In fact, data shows that we may not hit the one million landmark even in December,” he added.

The group also projects that the state will add 443 new Covid-19 deaths between now and December 12. 

But Omprakash Patil, Director of the Department of Health and Family Welfare, cautioned that cooler temperatures in winter could see the virus rebound. “Frankly speaking, we will not be in the clear for another five to six months, and that too, only if all measures are followed,” he said.

IISc forecast

Even mathematical models are not able to provide clear cut answers. According to a well-known model at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the outbreak, which has currently flat-lined, will start to see a slight rise from mid-December before tapering off from late March. 

But one of its creators, Associate Professor Sashikumar Ganesan, Chairman of the Department of Computational and Data Sciences, said the projections have started to go off the rails slightly because of low-quality data.

“Our projections until October were accurate because the quality of government data was good. However, now there are a lot of gaps when it comes to new infections. The official data is not capturing the reality of the situation,” he said.

‘Numbers may not rise’

The government is refusing to hazard a guess on the issue of possible cases in December, even as winter has set in and colleges are reopening.

“It is not possible to predict how many cases there will be,” Deputy Chief Minister Ashwath Narayan said. “However, we feel that the Covid-19 numbers may not see an increase due to the reopening of colleges.”

Narayan said colleges are opening only for final year students and class attendance is not compulsory. “Moreover, we have measures in place to tackle any student who tests positive. All contacts will be traced,” he said.