Amid new Covid clusters, Bommai orders slew of measures

Amid new Covid clusters, Karnataka moves to intensify border vigil, asks schools to defer events

The government’s immediate concern is the spread of the virus in schools and colleges after clusters were formed in Dharwad, Anekal, Sarjapura and Mysuru

Karnataka CM Bommai. Credit: PTI File Photo

With new Covid-19 clusters and the Omicron variant posing fresh pandemic threats, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Saturday ordered a slew of measures that includes heightened border checks and asking educational institutions to postpone their public events.

“Negative RT-PCR reports will be compulsory for everybody entering Karnataka from Maharashtra and Kerala,” Revenue Minister R Ashoka said, after an emergency meeting chaired by Bommai.

Ashoka said the government has ordered round-the-clock checks at the Kerala and Maharashtra borders - Mangaluru, Mysuru, Chamarajanagara and Kodagu districts. “There will be strict vigil, especially with Kerala that continues to reel under Covid-19,” he said.

All Kerala students who entered Karnataka 16 days ago will be made to take the RT-PCR test. “And, all hostel students who have tested negative will be made to undergo another test after seven days,” Ashoka said, adding that Covid-19 testing will be intensified in medical and nursing colleges.

The government’s immediate concern is the spread of the virus in schools and colleges after clusters comprising students were formed in Dharwad, Anekal, Sarjapura and Mysuru.

Read | Bengaluru: RT-PCR must for those from high-risk nations

“Schools and colleges have started organizing cultural events. We have decided to ask them to defer all such events. We even discussed the need to order cancellation of seminars,” Ashoka said.

Further, the government has ordered that all employees working in public offices, malls, hotels, theatres and other such commercial establishments must have two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. “If they don’t have double-dose, they won’t be allowed to work,” he said.

The Bommai administration, which is piggybacking on the post-pandemic economic recovery, is not considering any drastic measures. “We did not discuss imposing curbs,” Ashoka said. “We’re currently in the advisory phase, but depending on the Covid-19 numbers in the coming days, we’ll have to take drastic steps,” he said.

Authorities have been directed to ensure masks are worn during functions. “In marriages and other functions, we see that 95% of people don’t wear masks. We will enforce this,” the minister said.

Besides increasing testing at airports, only those with a negative report will be allowed to enter Bengaluru city, the CM’s meeting decided.

According to Ashoka, experts have told the state government that the new Omicron variant “spreads five times faster than the existing variants”.

Bommai is likely to chair another meeting to discuss Christmas and New Year celebrations. “We will issue guidelines,” Ashoka said. “We are aware that New Year celebrations can get messy.”

Booster dose

Karnataka has asked the Centre for permission to administer booster doses, Ashoka said. “Many people have taken the vaccine very early on. We’ve asked the Centre to start booster doses to frontline workers first. We expect permission in a week’s time,” he said.

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