Bengaluru: Karnataka will be in a veritable shutdown mode, barring only very necessary public gatherings. A day after the state reported the first death from coronavirus in the country, Chief Minster BS Yediyurappa said he has ordered all public institutions, including places of entertainment and religious activity, to shut down. This closure appears to be for a period of a week starting Saturday.
Places that will shut down include malls, cinemas, nightclubs, pubs, sporting events, conferences, and summer camps as well as religious congregations. Colleges and universities are also closed for a week in a bid to bring in social distancing. Exams — for schools and colleges — will be held as per schedule.
The government has also discouraged large wedding celebrations and parties, requesting people to cut down on the number of attendees, if these ceremonies have to be held.
In Gulbarga district, where a 76-year-old man died on Tuesday, a religious fair called the 'Sharanabasaveshwara jathre' was advanced by three hours and saw barely key persons, wearing masks, participate in the activities. It was a muted affair, with officials telling public coming in from different taluks to stay away. The fair, that usually draws 50,000 to 60,000 people, still saw about a few thousand turning up.
"All private hospitals should compulsorily report to the health department if they come across any person they suspect to be infected with coronavirus," Yediyurappa told reporters after a review meeting. "Private hospitals have already been instructed about it. Travellers who have returned from foreign trips should report to the Health Department and provide information. They are instructed to compulsorily remain in home isolation for 14 days," the CM told the media after a review.
All hospitals, dispensaries and private clinics have to report to the Health Department regarding the treatment given to those returning from abroad. IT companies have been asked to encourage work-from-home for all their employees to the maximum possible extent and this applies to all offices where people work in air-conditioned closed environments.
However, Yediyurappa said government offices will continue to function, adding the month-long legislature session scheduled till March 31 will also continue despite the clampdown.
Asked if people can actually cancel weddings that have perhaps been planned months in advance, Minister of Medical Education K Sudhakar said, "It is in the interest of the health of everyone that we have taken this aggressive step. Once there is an outbreak, then it is difficult to contain and treat. So, of course, a few people may be disadvantaged, there is some disturbance in their routine lives. In the interest of health, this is the minimum they can do."
Yediyurappa has cancelled his own programmes to tour parts of north Karnataka and will remain in Bengaluru.
However, an "intellectual meet" organised by the BJP in Karnataka went on as scheduled, with national president JP Nadda in attendance. "It is not a big gathering. So we are asking people to conduct programmes that should be less in number," said Sudhakar.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), slated to hold its three-day conference of over 1,500 delegates from across the country, also said it plans to go ahead with it. The three-day Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha from March 15-17 will be held at an institution in a Bengaluru suburb.
Sudhakar said the government is only issuing advisories and it is up to organisations to take the final call.