Bengaluru: With COVID-19 cases reaching 14 with three more people testing positive, the Karnataka government on Wednesday extended the lockdown announced last week to March 31 as it stepped up efforts to combat the spread of the disease which has already claimed a life in the state.
Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa convened an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and further measures to tackle the outbreak.
The cabinet decided to earmark Rs 200 crore as "immediate expenses" to contain the spread, and constitute a taskforce comprising four Ministers for monitoring the situation on a daily basis, and review measures.
The state government had announced lockdown of malls, cinema theatres, pubs and night clubs for a week, with effect from last Saturday.
Yediyurappa had also issued instructions to stop all kinds of exhibitions, summer camps, conferences, fairs, marriage, sports and engagement events and birthday parties state-wide for a week from Saturday.
The Chief Minister on Wednesday said these curbs would continue till March 31.
The taskforce consists of Medical Education Minister Sudhakar K, Deputy Chief Minister CN Ashwath Narayan, Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai, and Health Minister B Sriramulu.
Chief Secretary TM Vijay Bhaskar would serve as a member of taskforce, which would be headed by Sriramulu.
"For immediate expenses (to contain the spread of the virus), about Rs 200 crore will be earmarked," Yediyurappa said.
The Chief Minister said all passengers coming by international flights would be tested and placed under quarantine for 15-16 days.
Stating that strict measures will be taken not to allow members of the public enter 'Vidhana Soudha' and 'Vikasa Soudha', the seat of state legislature and secretariat, he said "public events and programmes should not be held, fairs, marriages and other events should be limited, no large-scale event should be held."
It has also been decided to take special measures to contain spread of bird flu, swine flu and monkey fever in parts of the state.
Three people tested positive for coronavirus in the city on Wednesday, taking the total number of cases in Karnataka to 14, the state health department said.
The three patients were a 25-year-old man who returned from Madrid in Spain on March 13, 56-year-old woman and 35-year-old man who returned from the US on March 6 and 10, respectively, it said, adding that the three were admitted to a designated hospital's isolation ward.
The country's first coronavirus death was reported from Kalaburagi in Karnataka, where a 76-year-old man, with travel history to Saudi Arabia,died "due to co-morbidity and also tested positive for COVID-19" on March 10.
Sharing details in the assembly, Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar said, Karnataka stands fourth in number of positive cases after Maharashtra, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh.
He said, according to theIndian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Centre, Karnataka is in the first to second stage, because of measures taken by the state in containing the spread.
The minister said the cabinet has decided to earmark Rs 200 crore to contain the spread of COVID-19 and no state has set aside such a huge amount for this purpose, and is the first to do it.
All those international travellers will be quarantined for 15 days compulsorily and government machinery around the airport like government hospitals, budget hotel and resorts will be used for the purpose, he said.
Sudhakar said the cabinet has decided to extend the guidelines issued last week till March 3l--they include shutting down of hotels, pubs besides restrictions on fairs and marriages limiting it to not more than 100-150 people.
Public representatives also should not participate in programmes or large gatherings and members of the public will be banned from both Houses of Karnataka legislature.
The minister said from Wednesday the right hand of all international passengers who are arriving in the state will be stamped, so that "primary and secondary contacts are aware, and passengers too do not come in contact with anyone for 15 days."
"This is to contain spread of the virus, and health measures and guidelines need to be followed strictly."
Sudhakar said Karnataka has five labs to test cases, highest in India, where there are 54 labs.
"We will be starting labs at regional centres like Hubballi, Mangaluru and other places, and on the request of legislators we are working towards setting up labs wherever there are government medical colleges," he said.
The cabinet has decided to provide incentive to all those working in health sector to prevent the spread of virus, other than insurance,the minister added.
Later, responding to a reporter's question on reports about plans to restrict international flights to the city, Sudhakar said "there are plans, it was discussed in the cabinet, but as it comes under the domain of the central government, looking at what Centre decides, we will go ahead."