Categorically ruling out any lockdown or night curfew in the State, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Wednesday warned that this does not mean people could become complacent and go about without wearing masks or not following COVID-19 protocols.
“The situation is now in people’s hands. I have instructed the Home Department to strictly enforce rules. If people do not cooperate, we will be forced to consider other stringent measures,” the Chief Minister said after attending Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with the Chief Ministers of various States.
Districts in focus
He said he had apprised the Prime Minister about the measures initiated by the State government in containing the pandemic. “The Prime Minister has advised Karnataka to focus on districts where the incidence is high. A special strategy will be worked out for the three districts — Bengaluru, Bidar, and Kalaburagi — where the caseload is high,” he said.
The State was working on setting aside more beds in wards and ICUs for COVID-19 patients. It was also planning to set up three COVID-19 care centres in Bengaluru to take care of an immediate surge. The ongoing vaccination drive would be intensified and a target of inoculating nearly three lakh people a day had been fixed, the Chief Minister said.
As the Centre’s policy permits vaccination only at a health facility, the State had sought permission to take up vaccination drive in old age homes, apartment complexes, and other inaccessible areas, the Chief Minister added.
Pointing out that COVID-19 cases were on an upward trend from the last 15 days, the Chief Minister said the Prime Minister had advised States to adopt stringent measures so that the situation does not go out of control. Vaccination drive would be intensified and vaccine wastage minimised as far as possible, he added.
“I have assured the Prime Minister that all efforts will be made in Karnataka to control the COVID-19 spike and ensure normalcy. So far, Karnataka has reported around 9.61 lakh COVID-19 cases and more than 12,000 deaths,” the Chief Minister said.
The State saw a peak during the period from August to October 2020. Cases started declining in November, but the decline was faster from December. However, in the last about 10 days, cases are showing an increasing trend. The positivity rate has also increased to 1.65% as on March 15.
“We conducted a review with experts and officers on March 15 and decided to intensify information, education, and communication campaign to create awareness among the public to observe COVID-19 appropriate behaviour,” he said.
No restrictions on large gatherings in open spaces
With the Election Commission having announced bypolls, Mr. Yediyurappa said there would be no restrictions on large public/political gatherings in open spaces. However, the maximum number of people attending events in closed spaces had been limited to 200, he said.
Mr. Yediyurappa said all those who attend public/political/religious and social gatherings should compulsorily wear masks, both in open and closed spaces.
Replying to query, he said, “We know that lakhs of people congregate during elections and this cannot be avoided. This is common in the country. We have no restrictions for such gatherings in open spaces. But in closed spaces, not more than 200 can attend and this will be strictly enforced.”
It may be recalled that the Health Department had recently issued a circular restricting the number of attendees in social, political, and religious gatherings to 500 in open spaces and 200 in closed spaces.
For birthday parties/other celebrations, funerals/death ceremonies, the maximum number of attendees has been restricted to 100 in open spaces and 50 in closed spaces.
CM goes without mask
Mr. Yediyurappa, who asserted on the need for wearing masks by people, forgot to wear one at Wednesday’s press conference.
He said he had directed officials to strictly enforce the rule on wearing masks and added that people should not become complacent now. Replying to queries on whether the penalty for not wearing mask would be increased, the Chief Minister appealed to the media to create more awareness about this rule. “If people do not follow, we may have to think of stringent measures,” he added.