Amid warning of possible third wave of Covid-19 which is likely to target children, B S Yediyurappa-led Karnataka government has set up a 16-member expert committee to be headed by noted cardiologist Dr Devi Shetty. The expert committee for prevention and management of Covid-19 third wave has come up with a detailed set of measures to combat the possible infection effect on the children.
The 91-page interim report was submitted before the Chief Minister and it contains measures that can be adopted by other states as well. It is to be noted here that Dr Shetty is also a part of the 12-member national task force set up by the Supreme Court to allocate oxygen supply across the country.
The committee has estimated that around 3.4 lakh children in Karnataka ae likely to be affected by the possible third wave of coronavirus. The report has explained the challenges to be faced in managing Covid-19 infection in children and suggested the steps to be taken by the state government to control the spread.
To boost medical facilities, the panel has suggested augmentation of neonatal ICU, pediatric ward beds, PICU beds at medical colleges, taluk and district level hospitals. A total of 27,000 beds are needed across the state for children alone, according to the report.
It also mentioned about an acute shortage of manpower in medical field and asked the government to recruit doctors, nurses and paramedic staff at the earliest. Upgrading the existing HDU to pediatric ICU is also to be done, the report stated.
Mentioning about the requirement of number of beds in urban and rural areas, the committee said hospitals, exclusively for children, with 250 beds and at least 20 PICU/NICU in backward districts of Koppala, Kolar, Chitradurga, Yadagir, Chamarajnagar and Haveri will be needed. These set ups can be established in district hospitals or medical colleges whichever is convenient, the report suggested.
Moreover, the committee has also strongly recommended creation of makeshift stabilisation units within hospital campus with oxygen concentrators and necessary staff. A minimum of 3,000 pediatricians along with the existing ones are expected to be necessary to manage the third wave of coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the panel has agreed with step-by-step unlocking strategy of Karnataka. The report suggested re-opening schools since any further delay may force children into malnutrition, child trafficking and related issues. It has also been advised to provide Covid-19 health insurance up to Rs 2 lakh to all children attending school physically.
“They have recommended colleges can be started initially after entire staff and students are vaccinated. Hence, we will look into increasing vaccination drives first and then decide on opening colleges. Schools can wait, medical and engineering colleges and other such courses are the first ones if and when they open,” said Yediyurappa after meeting Dr Shetty.
The panel has clearly suggested change in Covid-19 testing methods for children. It said nasal and oral swab collection methods that are used in adults will not work with kids since they may not cooperate. Hence, gargle RT-PCR (approved by ICMR) and salivary RT-PCR along with Rapid Antigen Testing are recommended by the committee. These methods are approved by the ICMR.
Post-covid complications including MIS-C is to be addressed and be prepared way before the wave strikes. Engaging ASHA workers, NGOs, corporate sectors to manage and run the medical system will help ease the burden on the government. Data collection and maintaining a detailed registry is of equal importance, the report said.
The state government has decided to ramp up the medical infrastructure as per the recommendations of the panel within next 45 days. The experts estimate that the third wave of Covid-19 will strike by late September or early October.