Bengaluru: The BS Yediyurappa-led government announced a one-time relaxation of the statewide lockdown on Tuesday that was imposed in the backdrop of the rise in coronavirus cases in Karnataka.
Yediyurappa said people would be allowed to travel across the state on Tuesday evening to be with their families on the occasion of Ugadi, the Kannada New Year that falls on Wednesday.
However, he expressed dismay at people not following lockdown rules that are essential to check the spread of COVID-19.
"We have seen many people on the streets despite the lockdown. We realise many want to go to their hometowns or want to come to Bengaluru for Ugadi. I have already requested people to celebrate this in as simple a manner as possible. Despite the curfew kind of situation, you are still seeing people on the streets. For their own health, these people must not do that. Whoever wants to leave Bengaluru or come in, let them do it tonight (Tuesday night). From Wednesday, stricter measures would be adopted against violators," the chief minister told reporters after a review meeting.
The announcement came as a surprise to many, as the government had specifically announced only on Monday that people will not be allowed to go their villages in Karnataka from Bengaluru. The total number of cases in the state rose to 41 on Tuesday.
Health experts said the move could prove dangerous for the state. Dr S Srinivasa, secretary of the Indian Medical Association's Karnataka branch, said, "We are very upset. Bengaluru has seen the maximum number of COVID-19 cases in Karnataka. If people from here go in lakhs to other parts of the state, there is a danger that they will infect others. Each and every one of us must work to control the spread," said.
Pointing out those visiting their families in other districts and taluks for the Ugadi would definitely meet elderly citizens, including their parents and grandparents, who have already been identified as a high-risk category, Dr Shrinivasa said the work of the last three days may go to nought with this one relaxation of lockdown.
"What he has done is immeasurable, and just unexpected. When police have been able to clamp down so much all along, what is the need for this relaxation?" he said.
As of now, tests are being conducted only on people with travel history and those exhibiting symptoms. The doctor said this leaves many others who are yet to be tested and could be potential carriers of the virus.
Considering India's population, the ramifications could be big. Considering that the statewide lockdown was announced Monday afternoon, but came into effect only at midnight, many moved from the city to other places overnight.
"The work of last two days is spoilt now. People don't have the basic courtesy to not carry the virus to those who are safe in their villages. The control of COVID-19 spread can't just rest with the government, people must also do their part," he added.
Dr Nandkumar Jairam, CEO of the Columbia Asia Group of Hospitals, said that while the dangers of carrying the virus persists, the fact that public transport is not available is a positive. People travelling by private vehicles would be significantly lesser, he said.
The government has said that those who move out overnight must stay put to wherever they go to -- after 6 am Wednesday, the lockdown would be far more stringent and they would not be allowed to return till March 31.
The CM’s relaxation order came on a day when the daughter of state BJP MP GM Siddeshwara, Ashwini, tested positive for the virus.
Ashwini had returned to Bengaluru from Guyana via New York and New Delhi, and gone on to their family home in Bheemasamudra in Chitradurga district.