As returnee challenge gets bigger, BBMP seeks public help

Last Updated 26 May 2020, 05:34 IST

Bengaluru’s civic body is seeking public’s help to identify inter-state travellers who are said to be slipping into the city after dodging checkpoints and medical screenings for COVID-19.

On Monday, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) made an appeal to residents to report such returnees, who are jeopardising the state’s efforts to contain the outbreak.

With this move, the BBMP hopes to replicate Mandya district, which has been overwhelmed by returnees from Maharashtra, the worst-hit state in the country, many of whom tested positive for the virus.

According to Mandya District Commissioner Dr M V Venkatesh, Mandya has seen a 14.7% infection rate among returnees since May 4 (214 people are positive out of the 1,453 returnees from Maharashtra).

“The district responded by enlisting the public to report cases,” Dr Venkatesh said, laying out the district administration’s response. “Our measures include members of the public reporting returnees, Gram Panchayat Task Forces identifying all new entrants at villages and revenue and police staff carrying out active surveillance. We identified 23 positive cases who had escaped medical screening.”

It is a success rate that the BBMP potentially hopes to replicate, with a senior officer expressing particular concern about Maharashtra returnees. “The reality is people did enter [the city]. The worry is about Maharashtra returnees, whose numbers are thought to be many,” the official told DH.

The BBMP’s concern is justified by existing data. On Monday, six out of the eight new COVID cases reported in the city included returnees from other states or countries.

According to government data, a total of 881 interstate travellers from Maharashtra have tested positive in Karnataka for COVID-19 since May 4, when Lockdown 3.0 began.

High numbers

As returnee numbers continue to surge, unknown cases are keeping municipal officials on edge.

Dr K Srinivas, District Health Officer, Bengaluru Urban, pointed out that the number of such people is high, but declined to specify. “It is a dismaying number, not least for the fact that most of these people are educated and should know better than to hide their travel history,” he said.

He added that officials have assembled a tentative list of such cases through various sources. “If the public reports cases as well, we can address this problem quickly,” he said.

DK’s returnee problem

Dakshina Kannada, too, is seeing an influx from Maharashtra. So far, the coastal district has received over 1,000 returnees from Maharashtra alone and 30 positive cases were detected among such people, according to District Commissioner Sindhu Rupesh.

The DC said that returnees in villages were being reported by locals while groups of unscreened people were slipping into Mangaluru or through forest areas.

“The problem of people evading screening and quarantine is real, but it is not so in villages where everybody knows everybody,” Rupesh said.

(Published 25 May 2020, 18:52 IST)

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