Bengaluru: Bengaluru, which has the second-highest number of active Covid-19 cases after Pune, is expected to see a surge in positive cases this month as the festive season begins and Unlock 5.0 guidelines get set to allow the reopening of schools, colleges, and cinema halls. The city administration has now shifted focus to strict enforcement of mask-wearing among the public, with the state government recently increased the penalty for not wearing masks to Rs 1,000 from Rs 200 earlier.

During the past 2-3 days, the city reported several instances of agitated citizens getting into quarrels with marshalls of civic agency Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike. Marshalls are empowered to impose the penalty. “Now that all our campaigns appealing people to adhere to social distancing norms, practicing basic hygiene and compulsory wearing of masks have fallen on deaf ears, the only option seems to be strict enforcement of face masks,” said Dr. MK Sudarshan, chairman, Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 management in Karnataka.

Since social distancing is next to impossible in crowded cities like Bengaluru, the least that can be done is strict enforcement of face masks, he said. “All our previous predictions about when the city may see the peak and plateau have failed. It is difficult to make any predictions now. Everybody who steps out must consider people around them as asymptomatic carriers, as the infection is only going to spread,” Sudarshan said. The city administration plans to increase testing to reduce the case positivity rate, BBMP Commissioner N Manjunath Prasad.

“Increasing the test numbers will identify more people with infection and reduce the positivity rate. We want to bring down case positivity from 13% to 5%,” he said. The IT capital has been reporting more than 4,000 cases daily over the past 10 days. It has been three months since Bengaluru started seeing a rapid surge in cases even as several other cities like Mumbai, Chennai, and Delhi have seen a downward trend. However, officials handling COVID-19-related matters said it was unfair to compare Bengaluru with other cities due to the testing numbers and methodology.

For instance, Bengaluru tests nearly 30,000 samples a day, whereas Mumbai and Chennai are testing less than 15,000 samples. “The more you test, the more positive cases you report,” a state government official, who did not wish to be named, said. Although Delhi has scaled up its testing numbers, the official said the national capital was relying on rapid antigen tests that give high false negatives.

“In Bengaluru, the focus is on RTPCR tests. Considering all these elements, the case fatality ratio (deaths per 100 confirmed cases) will be the best indicator,” he said. Bengaluru’s CFR is 1.26%, much lower than Mumbai’s 4.35%, and Delhi’s 1.92%. “Our focus is to prevent Covid-19 deaths and bring down the case fatality below 1%,” Karnataka medical education minister K Sudhakar.

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