Bengaluru: A visibly relaxed Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa went to iconic Mavalli Tiffin Room, popularly known as MTR, for breakfast on a cloudy, cold Saturday morning. The legendary eatery, which was shut for over 80 days during the lockdown, was open and had over 60 per cent occupancy.
The 78-year-old BJP stalwart who has been leading Karnataka’s fight against the spread of dreaded coronavirus was happy that among the larger states, his has been a success story, so far.
He had breakfast at the popular eatery with his revenue minister R Ashoka and Bengaluru South MP Tejaswi Surya as a Confidence Building Measure (CBM) to send out a message to people that going out with proper safety is fine.
A few hours after Yediyurappa’s “eating out”, Niti Ayog’s CEO Amitabh Kant hailed his efforts in combating Coronavirus. He said, “Compared to other Metro cities, cases per million in Bengaluru are extremely low. For every confirmed case, they traced 47 contacts. In Delhi it is 2.1. Karnataka has also done large scale testing of patients with influenza like symptoms (SARI & ILI). Great!”
The government of India statistics which are in the public domain prove that Karnataka has done reasonably well and contained the spread of disease to a large extent.
On Saturday, Karnataka had 6,516 confirmed cases with 79 deaths. Among them, 3440 who had tested positive have so far have recovered, with a mortality rate of just 1.2 per cent.
One of the key factors in Karnataka’s largely successful efforts at controlling Covid-19 in the state has been aggressive contact-tracing, quarantining and testing. Researchers from the Indian Council of Medical Research who conducted a study of contacts tested of Covid-19 patients in different states between January 22 and April 30 found Karnataka at the top, with 93 on average tested compared to the national figure of 20.
According to a LK Atheeeq, a senior IAS officer, currently the Principal Secretary of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR), Karnataka’s Covid19 death rate by age ranges from 0.4 per cent among those in 30-40 age group to 18.8 per cent among 60 plus patients.
“What is important is the death rate among the 60 plus patients has fallen significantly since the beginning of May 2020. This is an indication of early detection and better care”, said, Atheeq, who is one of the key IAS officers handling the state government’s coronavirus battle.
Yediyurappa’s handling of coronavirus has won him some appreciation both within and outside his party, since fighting the virus in a huge, highly industrialized state like Karnataka is not an easy job.
Much before the Lockdown was declared, Yediyurappa was on the ground making plans to fight the disease. When it was declared, the handling of the strictest phase of lockdown was much better than other states.
He held several dozen meetings with all stake holders including the opposition Congress and JDS to make it an all-party, apolitical fight. His warnings against giving a communal colour to the spread also worked well. Many Congress and JDS leaders who criticize his handling of the coronavirus crisis in public, admit in private that Yediyurappa has done a fairly decent job.
From day one, he made the handling, transparent by sharing every detail with the media and public. In the last 90 days, he has spoken to the media on almost every day (sometimes 2-3 times a day) and has held several dozen media briefings.
“He has been working non-stop. He chairs half a dozen big and small meetings every day…meets everyone. He listens to them and takes immediate steps to solve their problems,” a senior official working with him said.
Karnataka’s already well-established medical care and other key infrastructures has also helped the state in battling the virus in the last three months. The repatriation of migrant workers to their states was earlier criticised after trains were stopped, but was managed better later and the supply chain of all essential goods was also handled well.
“The chief minister listens to health officials and other experts. He did not overrule them even once. He knows that they know the best. It has made our job easier,” said another bureaucrat.
“After the unlocking of the lockdown, there has been a spurt in the cases, mainly because of the people moving from highly infected places like Mumbai and Chennai to Karnataka. We have red states Maharashtra to our North and Tamil Nadu to our South. We share a long border with the both. It has complicated our job and cases are rising. But, we are handling them well. Hope, the situation will remain under control,” he said.
Unlike most other chief ministers, Yediyurappa had to fight an intra-party rebellion in the last one month. He also had to go through the humiliation of party high command completely rejecting his nominees for the Rajya Sabha.