The government has warned of strict action against dealers creating artificial shortage of N95 masks and also selling them at exorbitant prices in the State.
“If anyone finds that masks are sold over and above the maximum retail price, they can call 104 Arogyavani (helpline) and lodge a complaint with specific details. We will initiate action against the dealers/medical store owners through the State Drugs Controller,” said Health Commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey.
This follows several complaints from people about the non-availability and soaring prices of masks in stores. “We will not allow anyone to take undue advantage of the situation and make profits by fleecing people. People can call our helpline and complain. Action will be initiated,” he said.
Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar said it is not required for everyone to use N95 masks unless they have symptoms. “The State has adequate stock of the masks — 40,000 N95 and four lakh triple-layered apart from the required stocks of medicine. There is no need for people to panic,” he said.
Apart from those with symptoms, N95 masks are mainly for doctors, paramedical staff and other health staff in hospitals, who will handle patients.
On the increasing flow of patients in hospitals for screening, he said only those who have symptoms and have returned from COVID-19 affected countries in the last 14 days or have been in contact with those with travel history will be tested. Those who meet the above criteria can call 104 helpline and request for a test, he said.
The Health Department also had a meeting with private hospitals on Thursday to update them on the recent developments pertaining to COVID-19 and seek their active participation in handling the situation. “They have agreed to support the government in battling the disease, in case of an outbreak,” the Commissioner said.
Meanwhile, the Labour Department has issued a circular asking all employers to grant mandatory paid leave of 28 days to COVID-19 infected persons. Those covered under the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) should obtain a certificate from their Medical Superintendent of their jurisdictional hospital.
“Doctors in ESI hospitals should attend to the infected persons without any delay and give them certificates to facilitate their immediate isolation. On producing the certificate, the employers should immediately grant them 28 days paid leave. This will help in ensuring the infection does not spread to others. Those not covered under ESI should be permitted to avail sick leave and other leave for 28 days,” the circular said.
Five persons, who travelled from COVID-19 affected countries and showed symptoms, have been admitted to hospitals in Bengaluru, Udupi and Bidar since Wednesday. These five include an Iranian national, whose samples tested negative on Wednesday. He is under observation at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD). The reports of the remaining admitted cases are awaited, said officials.
B.G. Prakash, State Joint Director (Communicable Diseases), said till date, 695 persons have been identified for observation. Of them, 225 persons have completed 28 days of observation and 461 persons are continuing under home quarantine. These include persons who have travelled to COVID-19 affected countries and had contacts with COVID-19 positive cases.
Till date, 321 samples of symptomatic persons have been sent for testing and 273 samples have tested negative. A total of 68,717 passengers have been screened in Karnataka so far. These include 46,569 passengers in Kempegowda International Airport and 22,139 passengers in Mangaluru International Airport. Besides, 5,103 passengers have been screened at Mangaluru and Karwar seaports.