Bengaluru Buzz: 34 COVID-19 lineages | Nod to axe 450 trees | Auto fare revision… and more

News highlights from Bengaluru this week

NIMHANS finds 34 lineages of virus

The genomic sequencing of 197 COVID-19 samples from foreign fliers showed up 34 different lineages of the original Sars-CoV-2. This is up from the seven found in May 2020, but a majority of viruses come from a lineage characterised by different mutations, which allow the virus to evade a response from the human immune system. At the same time, scientists found that there is no evidence to suggest that the much-feared UK variant of the virus was present in Karnataka until the arrival of foreign fliers in the third week of December.

The finding was made by researchers from NIMHANS who analysed 75 samples from international fliers, 103 from city residents and 14 from an outbreak at a college of nursing in North Bengaluru in the middle of February. The study was conducted from November to February.

Of particular concern are those that carry mutations/amino acid changes conferring higher transmission, more severe disease, re-infection, and immune escape. These can broadly be classified as variants of concern, said the study.

Source: Deccan Herald, The Times of India

Read more: It isn’t over: Bengaluru’s fight and the pandemic

The mask is down

Going by the rallies and gatherings taking place in the city, fear of the pandemic seems low among the public. Of the 2,523 new COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday, 1,623 were from Bengaluru Urban district alone. BBMP identified 23 active containment zones on Thursday. While most of these (9) are in locations that fall under the Dasarahalli zone, Yelahanka zone has seven others of them. 

The government has said that strict restrictions are being imposed to contain the second COVID wave, but the situation does not warrant a semi or a full lockdown. Increasing penalty for not wearing masks is also being discussed. The government also issued an order not allowing public celebrations, gatherings or congregations during the coming festivals, such as Ugadi, Holi, Shab-e-Barat and Good Friday 

The BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) has tightened protocols for all inter-State travellers from April 1. They are now required to carry RT-PCR negative reports. So far, only entrants from Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, and Chandigarh had these restrictions. It will apply to only those who come to stay and is not for transit passengers.

Officials said that most COVID positive cases are in the 20-40 age group, are asymptomatic and are mostly in home isolation. Hand stamping patients is underway to prevent them from breaking quarantine. The civic body plans to redeploy the Quarantine Watch app to monitor movements of those in isolation.

Apart from Victoria Hospital, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, Bowring Hospital and Charaka Hospitals would be used if required, while private hospitals have been asked to be on standby. Information on the availability of beds and ICUs would soon be made available online. BBMP had presently deployed one ambulance for every ward.

Source: The New Indian Express, The Hindu, The Indian Express

Testing, tracing, vaccinating

The 450 private and government vaccination centres in Bengaluru will have a collective target of 80,000 vaccinations per day, said the government. However, the BBMP’s daily COVID bulletin on March 24 showed that a mere 13,831 were vaccinated on March 23. Out of these, while 12,460 were vaccinated with Covishield, 1,371 were vaccinated with Covaxin.

The state government will mandate that COVID test reports come not later than 24 hours. According to the BBMP bulletin issued on March 25, 58,876 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours. To facilitate contact-tracing, it is best if test reports are given within 24 hours.

Source: Deccan Herald

KRDCL to axe 243 trees, BMRCL to fell 207

The expert committee of the University of Agricultural Sciences, set up by the High Court to look into the road-widening projects of the KRDCL (Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited), has recommended the formation of a panel to monitor the status of transplanted trees. The committee assessed 1,227 trees on the proposed roads on the Hoskote-Budigere Cross to the Kempegowda International Airport. It observed that the KRDCL has felled 238 trees before the assessment was taken up. Of the 984 standing trees examined out of 1,227, the expert committee has suggested retaining 242 trees, transplanting 361 trees, and felling 243 trees.

Representational image. Marked for KRDCL’s Bengaluru Surrounding Roads Project. Pic: Mahesh Bhat

Meanwhile, nearly a year after the BMRCL (Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited) was hauled to the court over felling trees at midnight, the tree expert committee has okayed chopping down 207 trees for the Gottigere-Nagavara line under Phase 2. The BMRCL had applied for clearance again after the High Court stalled the felling of trees due to a “defective” public notification. But the committee concluded that out of 212 trees, 149 have to be felled, while 58 can be translocated. Only five trees could be retained with pruning.

Source: Deccan Herald

Read more: Why you don’t have a say in tree felling in Bengaluru

Autorickshaw fare revision

A sub-committee headed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police-Traffic (East) will come out with a report on revising autorickshaw fares within a month. Unions want the base fare increased to ₹40 and thereafter to ₹18 per km. At the start of the month, before the budget was scheduled to be announced, auto unions had taken out a rally from KSR Bengaluru railway station to Freedom Park, demanding that the State government hike the fare. Drivers pointed out that not only was business down because of COVID-19, but the fuel hike had made it increasingly difficult to meet daily expenses. Many said that they could not claim the ₹5,000 that the government had provided, to cover the impact of COVID-19, due to stringent eligibility rules.

Auto and taxi drivers are also unhappy that bike taxis continue to operate and accused the government of inaction. They have been saying that the aggregators are allowing whiteboard two-wheelers, meant for personal use, to run as bike taxis and are risking the lives of customers. They say that they pay for their yellow board vehicles, but are losing money to motorcyclists who are operating without the required license from the Transport Department. However, commuters who want the services to be made legal said that bike taxis are economical and ideal for Bengaluru’s roads as well as for last-mile connectivity.

Source: The Hindu

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[Compiled by Revathi Siva Kumar]

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