Amid fresh COVID-19 concerns in different parts of the country and apprehensions about a possible fourth wave of the pandemic, the Karnataka government on Monday decided to issue guidelines making wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing compulsory.
The decision was taken at a meeting headed by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai with senior ministers, officials and the COVID-19 technical advisory committee consisting of experts in Bengaluru, to review the situation in the state amid concerns over a possible fourth wave.
"Masks should be worn compulsorily, especially at places where there is a crowd and in indoor places, social distancing has to be maintained. Guidelines will be issued today to this effect. We have not taken any decision regarding imposing any penalty immediately," Health Minister K Sudhakar said.
Speaking to reporters after taking part in the meeting, the minister said the number of positive cases have slightly increased in Bengaluru, where the positivity rate is 1.9 per cent, and the situation will be monitored and supervised with guidelines about the treatment if required.
"On April 27, the Prime Minister will be holding a video conference with Chief Ministers and Health Ministers of all states, where more guidance and information may be shared. After that, we will hold another round of meeting here and further measures, if required, will be taken," he added.
Pointing out that according to the World Health Organisation, health issues like hospitalisation and ICU care are required more among unvaccinated people, the minister said the number of people who have taken preventive dose (third dose) is low, and more people will have to get the booster jabs.
"People above 60 years are being given the preventive or third dose for free. Don't wait for the next wave, take the preventive dose and protect yourselves," he advised.
Noting that countries like South Korea, Thailand and Japan have been reporting a spike in cases, Sudhakar said the passengers travelling directly to the state from these countries will be specially monitored at the airports and their details and contact numbers will be collected, and they will be telemonitored at home.
In response to a question, the minister said Omicron BA.2 sub-lineages are emerging, but until an official report comes from the INSACOG lab, it will be difficult to say which variant is prevalent.
"They (lab) have collected samples for genomic sequencing and we may get a report in two to three days," he said, adding that if the samples are Omicron sub-lineages, symptoms will be more or less the same.
Highlighting that about 10,000 COVID tests are being conducted on average per day, Sudhakar responded to a question and said the Centre's guidelines about testing those symptomatic is being followed by the state.
Regarding severity of the infections, he said the state government has obtained information regarding the situation in other states like Delhi where there are no major issues and the rate of hospitalisation or those requiring ICU care is low, whereas in foreign countries hospitalisation at few places is more and it may be because of low rate of vaccination there.
Responding to a question, Sudhakar said the guidelines on masks and maintaining social distance are applicable to all whether it is the common man or any political party, and they need to be followed in the interest of public health at large.
Karnataka recorded 60 fresh COVID-19 cases and zero fatalities on Sunday, taking the total infections in the state to 39,46,934, and death count to 40,057.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)