Karnataka hints at allowing tech firms to start limited operations from Monday
The Karnataka government indicated on Friday that information technology and bio-technology companies could be allowed to start limited operations from Monday.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with representatives of companies, deputy chief minister CN Ashwath Narayan said while the lockdown would continue, technology firms could start operations after April 20 with 50% of employees coming in on alternate days on the condition that all steps are taken to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
His remarks came against the backdrop of Karnataka recording a substantial increase in Covid-19 cases for the third consecutive day. According to state primary and secondary education minister Suresh Kumar, 44 new cases - the largest single day jump - were reported since Thursday.
Karnataka exports $40 billion in technology services, and the sector is the largest employer in the state’s organised sector.
Narayan said employees of tech firms wouldn’t require special passes. “I doubt whether there would be the pass culture after April 20. Anyway, there is no public transport, no metro, no buses. Only one person can travel on two-wheelers, and there are limits on how many can travel in a car,” he said.
“If the technology companies want, we can provide sanitised public transport buses.”
Narayan said representatives of IT companies had assured him that hygiene norms, wearing of masks, use of sanitisers, social distancing and other government directives would be strictly implemented.
“They have said they will undertake screening and testing, as well as other responsibilities,” he said, adding the economy couldn’t be permanently shut.
However, chief minister BS Yediyurappa, speaking at a different media interaction, sounded a more cautious note and said the matter of allowing the technology industry to resume operations was under consideration. A decision will be made over the next couple of days based on the Centre’s guidelines, he added.
Primary and secondary education minister Suresh Kumar said the 44 new Covid-19 cases had taken the state’s cumulative total to 359. This follows 38 cases on Thursday and 19 cases on Wednesday.
The 359 cases include 13 deaths and 88 people who were discharged after being treated.
Briefing the media, Kumar acknowledged the trend was worrisome but said Karnataka had done well when compared to the national figures.
Kumar said the average number of tests had increased from 500 a day to 2,000 a day. The Centre has dispatched 12,400 rapid testing kits imported from China to the state. The state government has fixed a price of Rs 2,250 for each test by a private hospital, Kumar said.
Asked about the violation of the lockdown in Kalburgi during a temple chariot pulling ceremony for which hundreds had gathered, Kumar said no decision had been made on conducting mass tests there.
An expert committee of doctors advising and guiding the state government said earlier on Friday that early detection and treatment were key to ensuring public health. The panel said on an average, people were coming in for treatment four day after the first symptoms appeared. The committee appealed to people to come in earlier.
The state has also sought clearance from the Indian Council of Medical Research to conduct plasma therapy, which is considered effective in treating Covid-19.
In a separate development, police carried out a mild lathi charge at Savanur in Haveri district after a large number of people gathered for Friday prayers in spite of the Wakf board’s appeal not to do so.
Three men drowned while swimming in Tungabhadra river in Bellary district in violation of the lockdown. A case was registered in Huvina Hadagali police station and a search was launched to retrieve their bodies.