Traffic snarls return to halt Bengaluru as curbs ease
The infamous traffic snarls, which are almost synonymous with Bengaluru, returned to haunt the city on Monday morning as the lockdown restrictions imposed in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases were relaxed after more than a month.
In Old Airport Road, which connects central Bengaluru to the IT corridors of Whiltefield and Outer Ring Road, long traffic jams were seen as vehicles returned on the roads after over a month. Similar traffic jams and crowds were witnessed in other parts of Bengaluru, including KR Puram, Indiranagar and Basavanagudi, among other places.
Chief minister BS Yediyurappa-led state government has eased lockdown curbs in Bengaluru and 18 other districts in the state on account of a decline in new infections. The new guidelines came into force at 6 am on Monday.
As restrictions were lifted, the city saw an influx of people returning from other parts of the state. City authorities expressed concerns over the surge in people returning to Bengaluru from various parts of the state. While the number of cases in Bengaluru has come down, the influx to the city could result in another spike in Covid-19 cases, said Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials.
“One of the reasons why the lockdown guidelines have not been lifted in some districts is because the positivity rate there is high. People from these districts are allowed to come to the city. Even though the regulations allow only emergency travel, there is hardly any checking. Police are allowing people to come through without any checks at the city borders,” said a senior BBMP official, requesting anonymity.
The BBMP official added that strict restrictions on intra-city travel should continue till the positivity rate across the state comes down. However, many people return to the city since they have been allowed to work.
“I run a cement shop and I came to the city after the government gave the permission,” said Mohammad Abdullah, a native of Chikkamagaluru.
Bengaluru city police commissioner Kamal Pant on Monday issued prohibitory orders across the city, restricting more than four persons to assemble in public spaces.
Police said there were some practical difficulties in the implementation. “The situation on the streets has changed. The government has allowed garment factories, construction activities, private companies and others to operate. This means there is a large number of people on the road. The garment factories account for around one million workers. It is not possible to check every vehicle on the road when the volume is high and these industries need to restart work,” Pant said.
He added that even on the main highways leading to the city, there was a large movement of people from different districts. “Once again, the numbers are high here. We are conducting as many checks as possible but in some cases, where there is a pile-up, we have to allow traffic. It is the government’s decision to open these industries and these workers are critical for it,” he added.
Bengaluru recorded 1,470 new Covid-19 infections on Monday, according to the state health department. The city also witnessed 2,409 recoveries that brought down the active caseload to 85,044. The positivity rate in Bengaluru declined to 3.11%, according to BBMP. A total of 12 deaths were reported in Bengaluru, which took the toll to 15,319, state data showed.
“Our ability to stay focused and disciplined will ensure cases do not rise again. Stay safe. Get tested if you experience any Covid symptoms. Avoid public gatherings. Follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. Take the vaccine when it’s your turn,” Gaurav Gupta, BBMP commissioner tweeted.
Bengaluru is home to several multinational companies and its economy and employment opportunities attract people from across the state and various parts of the country. A significant portion of Bengaluru’s workforce comprises migrant workers, employed in various sectors.
The state government has announced that restrictions in 11 out of the 30 districts in the state, where test positivity rate remained high, will continue till at least June 21. The state government has decided to go in for a phase-wise lifting of curbs to restrict the sudden rush of people coming out of their homes and adding to the risk all over again.
Karnataka recorded 6,385 new Covid-19 infections with the positivity rate of 4.56% on Monday. There were 15,409 recoveries in the state, which brought down the active caseload to 172,141, according to the daily bulletin of the state health department on Monday. A total of 120 more deaths were reported on Monday, taking the toll to 33,033, data showed.
The Karnataka government has extended the timings of shops dealing in groceries, meat, vegetables, milk and other essential commodities from 6 am to 2 pm. Timings of liquor shops have also been extended till 2 pm. Earlier, they were allowed to operate from 6 am to 10am. However, night curfew from 7pm to 5 am and weekend curfew will continue in the state till June 21. The government said it will review the Covid-19 situation around June 21 and take appropriate decisions on further relaxations, if any. Industries and other production facilities have been allowed to operate with 50% strength while garment units have been restricted to 30%, according to the new guidelines.