Bengaluru: A high-powered expert committee appointed by the Karnataka government to chalk out an exit plan for the 21-day lockdown has said there is “no medical reason” to continue it beyond 14 April, when it’s scheduled to end.
Headed by Dr Devi Shetty, the founder of Bengaluru-based Narayana Hrudayalaya, a chain of hospitals, the panel has recommended lifting the lockdown in phases while continuing prohibitory orders in “hotspots” (areas with multiple cases) with strict policing.
“The government should plan a phased exit at 2-weekly intervals. Covid-19 is a three-month-old disease and there is no precedence (sic) of standards to follow,” the report, accessed by ThePrint, states.
“No one can predict the ground realities at the end of two weeks, so let’s design the action plan for 2 weeks from 15 April to 30 April, 2020,” it adds.
The five-member panel submitted its report to the Karnataka government Wednesday evening. An official in the Karnataka Chief Minister’s Office said the panel’s suggestions were being taken into consideration by the B.S. Yediyurappa cabinet and a decision will be arrived at by Thursday.
However, state Health Minister B. Sriramulu has thrown his weight behind the idea of an extended lockdown, telling ThePrint that the Covid-19 situation in the state is still not under control.
What the panel has recommended
According to the panel, lifting the lockdown in a phase-wise manner will instil confidence among people, prevent public frustration and secure livelihoods.
It has asked information technology and business technology firms and other commercial establishments to encourage work from home, while allowing 50 per cent of the workforce to return to offices.
“Encourage industries in the organised sector to reopen and function at 50 per cent while every employee gets paid fully. Construction industry should also be encouraged to resume…” the report states.
The panel has noted how the lockdown left thousands of migrant workers stranded in the state with no income or food, adding, “Declaring lockdown of a specific industry for a long period of time will result in layoffs compounding the economic problems.”
Other recommendations include:
- Curbs on unnecessary movement should continue until 30 April, as should the bar on transport by air, railways, and air-conditioned buses, as well as metro services.
- Strict social distancing must be enforced until 31 May, while Section 144 should continue in certain areas under police vigil.
- Gyms, bars, hotels, shopping malls, movie theatres, etc should remain closed until April-end.
- Chewing gum should be banned and the spitting of pan in public places curbed.
- Shops and other establishments should operate without air-conditioning until further notice.
- Educational institutions should continue tutorials until 31 May. The panel states students should be encouraged to take online classes as it will lay the foundation for educational reforms.
- The state should procure more testing kits, the panel states. It, however, discourages “indiscriminate use of antibody rapid testing”, the cheap, quick tests for Covid-19 diagnosis.
- Online training for the use of rapid antibody testing should be held through existing platforms.
While a decision on the panel report is yet awaited, Sriramulu has said the lockdown must be extended.
“Coronavirus is not under control yet. The number of cases and those infected has been increasing day by day,” he added. “We should take a cue from Punjab, which has recommended an extended lockdown. It will help in the long run to control the situation.”
By Thursday, Karnataka had registered 181 cases of Covid-19, of which five have died.