Bengaluru confirms 1st coronavirus case in Whitefield

Coronavirus: Karnataka confirms first case of COVID-19 in Bengaluru's Whitefield area

Representative image. (Credit: PTI Photo)

Karnataka on Monday evening confirmed the first positive case of coronavirus (COVID-19) as the government declared a holiday for all primary schools (class 1 to 5) in Bengaluru Urban and Bengaluru Rural districts to contain the outbreak.

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The developments came hours after a leak of an internal email from a school saying that the parent of a student tested positive.

Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar confirmed the development to the press late in the evening, hours after the school declared holiday and a major consulting company sent home more than 10 employees who were living in the vicinity of the school.  

The patient, a 40-year-old software engineer and a resident of Whitefield in East Bengaluru is being treated at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD) in Central Bengaluru.

The government now faces the tough task of monitoring the 2,666 people who came in contact with the techie. 

The patient’s wife, teenaged daughter and a colleague, who are also symptomatic, have been admitted to RGICD.

Also Read: Bengaluru: Panic grips Whitefield as school fans coronavirus fears

"Till further orders, all primary schools (till Class 5) will be shut from tomorrow. Since children are more vulnerable, this decision has been taken. Already pre-primary schools have been ordered to be closed," said Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar.

“One person has tested positive for Covid-19 in Karnataka. We have isolated him and his two family members in RGICD. The test results of his family members will be made public on Tuesday. The techie arrived in Bengaluru from New York via Dubai on March 1,” he further said. 

Also Read: All primary schools in Bengaluru shut indefinitely due to coronavirus


He developed symptoms on March 4.

“He went to a private hospital’s outpatient ward on March 5, but was admitted to RGICD only on March 8,” said Health Commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey.

"The patient's report came positive from the National Institute of Virology's (NIV) Bengaluru field unit on Sunday. The samples were sent to NIV Pune for a second test which also came positive," said Dr B G Prakash Kumar, Joint Director, Communicable Diseases, Department of Health and Family Welfare.

"He landed at KIA at 7.50 am on March 1. The passengers in three-four surrounding rows will be contacted and screened. The patient's driver and his family members, four in all, have been quarantined at home. The driver's children — one who is working and the other who is a II PUC student — along with his wife have been quarantined at home. They weren't admitted as they are not symptomatic," Sudhakar said.  

Pandey said, "Around 60 passengers from three flights are being contacted and traced. The patient went to his office for two days. Three teams of the health department are on the job. One team is tracing those who were seated with him in the flight and those who came in contact with him in his apartment, another team is tracing his colleagues, and the third is tracing people with a history of travelling to virus-affected countries. These teams have visited the contacts and are in the process of quarantining them."

Jawaid Akhtar, Additional Chief Secretary (Health), said, "We had begun universal screening of passengers from March 5 itself, but the techie arrived in Bengaluru on March 1."

Earlier, screenshots of the email by the school principal went viral. The teachers appealed for calm even as she referred to a parent self-reporting the coronavirus infection to seek leave for his child. As the screenshots went viral on social media, officials were caught off guard. The email referred to the panic among the teachers about a "known fact that one parent" from an apartment located near the school "has been screened positive for the coronavirus".

However, as some staff circulated the screenshots of the email on social media, panic spread like wildfire. Thousands of parents who are sending their wards to school started calling the principal, who had by then informed the Block Education Officer. By 12:30 pm, the school had declared a holiday.

When contacted, Shanthi Menon, principal of the school said she was not aware whether the parent had tested positive. "I received an email from parents on Sunday seeking leave for her child. In the mail, she mentioned that her husband returned recently from overseas had flu-like symptoms. I immediately informed education department officials and also sent an internal communication to our teachers as many of them live in the same apartment," said Shanthi Menon.

However, teachers and other parents living in the apartment complex located opposite to the school started panicking as a suspect parent also lives in the same apartment.  Meanwhile, a major consulting firm sent home about 10 employees who happened to live in the same apartment. It was not clear how the authorities of the firm got news of the situation. However, it appeared that the fear that one of the employees may be infected led to the "precautionery measure".

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