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“‘Yes’ Today, ‘No’ The Day After”: Karnataka’s Flip-Flop On Covid Measures

The Karnataka government has reversed a number of decisions on Covid lockdowns (File)

Bengaluru:

As a second wave of COVID-19 hits Karnataka, the state government finds itself in a difficult space – between saving lives or livelihoods. There have been several decisions taken with one of these two in mind, only for them to be swiftly reversed in a series of U-turns by the authorities.

First it was a declaration that schools would stay open despite the spike in new cases. Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa made that announcement on March 29 . He suggested doing so would force stakeholders – parents, children, teachers and officials – to practice better Covid hygiene.

Three days later, on April 1, offline classes (those requiring students to go to schools) for Classes 6 to 9 in Bengaluru (Urban) were suspended, “keeping in view the increasing COVID cases”.

Last week it was decided that gyms would be closed – a decision that left owners worried, and demanding either financial compensation or being allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity.

On Sunday, in another U-turn, gyms were permitted to open – with capacity capped at 50 per cent, of course. The move came as a relief to those in the business.

“At least this time 50 per cent is good… People should come to the gym, work out and build immunity,” Shiva, a gym owner, told NDTV.

Then came the cinema U-turn, which went from permitting only 50 per cent occupancy back to 100 per cent occupancy till April 7.

PS Gnaneshwar Authal, who owns several movie theatres, said: “The one reason for the demand is that a Rs 30 crore film of Puneeth Rajkumar could run for only one day. To avoid a loss it was decided to let it run at least for a week. I think that is why they made it 100% again.”

“We check that viewers are wearing masks… we check their temperature and we give them hand sanitiser. We also sanitise the theatre after each show,” he added.

Amid the fear that a deeply alarming spike in Covid cases is generating – India reported over 100,000 new cases in 24 hours for the first time ever – some movie-goers remain sanguine.

“It is not like people will get coronavirus if they come to the theatre. There are so many people in the markets. People go standing in buses,” one person argued.

All this back and forth gives the impression of a government that is undecided and unsure of what to do to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“I think the Chief Minister has taken some views because of the kind of pressure on him… and also maybe because he wants to balance saving livelihoods and lives. So, I think he has taken a proactive step in helping those associations which brought pressure on him,” Dr K Sudhakar, the Karnataka Health Minister, said

“He has conceded to their demands. But, at the end of the day, as you know, if cases are going up like in Maharashtra – then no government will have any space to give such relaxations,” he added.

One Bengaluru resident told NDTV: “The government says one thing one day and cancels it the next day. They say yes today and no the day after. No government is happy to curb any activity because, at the end of the day, it is a loss to everybody, including the government.”

Given the widespread economic distress that followed the lockdown last year and the wave of infections that followed, any sort of shutdown is likely to be the last option. But with hospital beds filling up and thousands of new cases reported every day, there are no easy decisions.

Karnataka – the third worst-affected state in the country – reported 5,279 new cases on Monday, up from 4,553 the day before. Bengaluru reported 3,728 new cases – up from 2,787 on Sunday.

Overall the number of active cases in the state is inching to the 40,000-mark.

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