Karnataka

An Overview of the Catastrophic Second Wave in Karnataka

Ritika Gupta, Swati Solanki, Sakshi Sharda, Ishika Chaudhary, Arjun Kumar

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected Indian states and Union Territories and Karnataka has been no exception. Due to issues like lack of infrastructure and human resources, both rural and urban people were caged in the web of grief and misery wherein even to see one’s loved one last time who succumbed to Coronavirus became an act of privilege.

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Focusing on the Rural Realities around the country during the pandemic, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) and IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a Panel Discussion on “Rural Realities | Karnataka Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on May 21, 2021.

This article is an excerpt of the presentation given by Ishika Chaudhary and the IMPRI team which provided an overview of the COVID-19 situation in India with special reference to Karnataka to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panelists.

About Karnataka

Karnataka is the largest state in South India and the sixth-largest in India with a population of around 6 crores according to the 2011 census. Originally known as the state of Mysore, it was renamed Karnataka in 1973. Karnataka has been home to some of the most powerful empires of ancient and medieval India like the Vijaynagara empire. The state corresponds to the Carnatic region. Its capital and largest city is Bangalore.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

It is the only southern state to have land borders with all of the other 4 southern Indian sister states. The state covers an area of 191,976 square kilometers. Kannada is the official language of the state. Karnataka is derived from the Kannada words karu and nādu, meaning “elevated land”. Karu Nadu may also be read as Karu, meaning “black” and Nadu, meaning “region”, as a reference to the black cotton soil found in the Bayalu Seeme region of the state. 

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

Karnataka is divided into 31 districts- Bagalkot, Ballari (Bellary), Belagavi (Belgaum), Bengaluru (Bangalore) Rural, Bengaluru (Bangalore) Urban, Bidar, Chamarajanagar, Chikballapur, Chikkamagaluru (Chikmagalur), Chitradurga, Dakshina Kannada, Davangere, Dharwad, Gadag, Hassan, Haveri, Kalaburagi (Gulbarga), Kodagu, Kolar, Koppal, Mandya, Mysuru (Mysore), Raichur, Ramanagara, Shivamogga (Shimoga), Tumakuru (Tumkur), Udupi, Uttara Kannada (Karwar), Vijayapura (Bijapur), Yadgir.

The Karnataka tourism sector has a tagline “One State, Many Worlds” owing to the rich diversity of Karnataka.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

61% of Karnataka’s population lives in rural areas. Karnataka’s sex ratio is 973 per 1000 population and is ranked 75th in terms of literacy rate. It is ranked 6th in Sustainable Development Goal Index and Per Capita Income, according to Census of India, 2011.

COVID-19 Second Wave

There has been a rapid upsurge in COVID-19 cases in the second wave as 1,31,787 new COVID-19 cases reported as of 11.45 p.m. on April 8, India registered the highest single-day spike in infections since the beginning of the pandemic. The mortality rate of Karnataka is 1.23. The second wave of COVID-19 is more stepper than the first wave.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

The positivity rate is over 10%. In Bangalore, it took nearly 13 months to report the first 5,000 deaths due to COVID whereas it took just the last 30 days in 2021 to report similar fatalities.

The worrying fact is that the fatality rate has increased for those below 49 years of age and cases are much higher. Karnataka reported 38,603 new cases of COVID-19, and 476 fatalities, taking the total number of infections to 22,42,065 and the toll to 22,313, the Health Department. Karnataka is among the top three states that are reporting more cases of COVID.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

The situation is really severe. The second wave has proved to be deadlier than the first wave as cases are doubling every eight days. There has been an exponential rise in COVID cases in Karnataka. As many as 17 districts recording a steep rise in COVID cases.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

Recent ground reports have projected that the death tally in the state is 6 times the reported numbers. This is a matter of grave concern, though, in the district of Bengaluru the discrepancy was not very high. Officials admit that even the numbers available in the CRS data are only provisional as reporting of death has always been slow in rural areas. The pandemic has also resulted in inefficient data collection across 35,000 birth and deaths registration centers in the State.

Counting Dead

As per the State Government bulletin released for 20-05-2021, New Cases Reported: 28869; Total Active Cases: 534954; New Covid Deaths: 548; Total Covid Deaths: 23854. Around 63,140 were vaccinated on 20-05-2021 with a total of 1,15,08,005 have been vaccinated in the state till now.

Ending days of speculation on vaccination for the 18 to 44-year age group, the state government on Thursday announced that it will commence vaccination from Saturday (May 22), across Karnataka. One-third of all Covid-19 deaths in Karnataka – since the first case in March last year – were reported in the first 20 days of May.

Emerging Issues

Lives and Livelihood in the state have been deeply impacted, however strict lockdowns helped in bringing down the total tally of cases. There have been issues in registering and data availability of testing and the number of cases.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

● Vaccination: – Suspension of the vaccine drive to the 18- 44-year age group. – the order has been placed for 3 crore doses of vaccines (2 crore doses of Covishield and 1 crore doses of Covaxin).

 ● Oxygen: – Acute Shortage – The state is setting up 127 oxygen generating units

● Health Infrastructure and Manpower: – The state government has stated that in the entire state, 45,754 beds supported by oxygen, 5,305 ICU beds, and 4,019 beds with ventilators were available as of 5th May 2021. However, the requirement projected by the Central government is 66,333 oxygen-supported beds, 13,969 ICU beds, and 8,382 ventilator beds.

Way Forward

The distribution of vaccines had not been systematic and successful, due to reasons like lack of awareness among the rural population, preferential treatments at various levels, and lack of facilities for online booking of vaccine slots.

In order to minimize the impact of second-wave and prepare for a third wave, issues of lack of oxygen, health infrastructure, and vaccination, which has also added to the financial burden on most rural as well as urban households, need to be addressed in moving towards healthy and prosperous Karnataka.

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