Fresh curbs on Karnataka schools as fears of third wave of Covid-19 loom large
The Karnataka government on Sunday issued fresh directives for educational institutions, imposing restrictions on social, cultural and academic events after a rise in Covid-19 cases in some such establishments across some parts of the southern state.
The Basavaraj Bommai-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government said that in light of the recent clusters of Covid-19 cases in Mysuru, Bengaluru and Dharwad, certain restrictions are being imposed.
“All social and cultural events in educational institutions may be postponed for two months. Conferences, seminars, academic events, etc. in educational institutions, wherever possible, may be postponed. Alternatively, it could be conducted in hybrid mode i.e. with minimal physical attendance and with more persons attending through virtual mode,” according to the advisory issued by TK Anil Kumar, the additional chief secretary of the health and family welfare department on Sunday.
The order came at a time when the Bommai government was relaxing restrictions in schools and other places to bring back some semblance of normalcy after almost 18 months of pandemic-induced lockdowns.
The new restrictions apprehending the possibility of a third wave of infections have sparked fears among the population who are apprehensive of more lockdowns that would bring on the burden of financial hardships and endanger their livelihoods.
The Bommai government had gone ahead and resumed physical classes for pre-primary students from November, despite opposition from various quarters including a significant section of parents and guardians who were apprehensive of the move since the children who are not eligible for vaccination are vulnerable and may contract the coronavirus that remains just as potent as it was at the beginning of last year.
In the wake of the new Covid-19 variant ‘Omicron’ that has been detected in South Africa, the state government on Saturday made it mandatory for people arriving from affected countries to take the RT-PCR test upon landing in the city. Home quarantine has also been made mandatory for these passengers.
“Earlier international passengers were tested but asked to go home and quarantine themselves. Now test them there itself (airport) and allow them to leave after they test negative,” Bommai said on Sunday.
The Karnataka government on Saturday reintroduced restrictions and issued fresh directives including making it mandatory for people working in malls, cinemas and other public places to be allowed in only if they have been vaccinated with both shots of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Bommai on Sunday said that these new strains were found in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong but there were no cases detected so far in Karnataka.
“We haven’t seen that strain in Karnataka but in places like Dharward, Mysuru and Bengaluru hostels we have seen spurts of cases spreading rapidly making them clusters. We have to take precautions,” Bommai said.
He said that these hostels have been declared as containment zones with restrictions imposed and directions to increase testing on the premises.
“Health care professionals may also conduct conferences, seminars, CME sessions, etc., virtually for a few more months to send a positive message to professionals in other fields, in the larger interest of public health,” Sunday’s advisory by the government read.
The Karnataka government had also eased restrictions on several other fronts, allowing for the organising of fairs.
The Bommai government continues the practice of imposing restrictions on the public even as electioneering for the December 10 MLC polls continues unchecked.
Bommai said that for the MLC elections there are no big public meetings and that only about 50-100 people are present. However, he said that all people attending these meeting should follow Covid-19 appropriate behaviour.
Bommai said that measures were being taken to increase vaccination coverage. He said that there were around 80 lakh Covid-19 vaccine doses available in the state and around 91% of the eligible population were administered at least one dose but conceded that this was reaching saturation levels. He said that around 58% of the population had received both doses and the government will aggressively pursue measures to increase coverage to at least 70% by the end of the year.