Karnataka govt could reopen schools for grades 5-9,
limit curfew

Karnataka govt could reopen schools for grades 5-9,<br>limit curfew

The government is planning to reduce night curfew by 90 minutes and reopen schools for classes 5-9 in Bengaluru from Monday, health department sources said.

In the second phase, the government plans to reopen schools for classes
1-4, they said.

With the number of fresh Covid-19 infections stabilising in several districts, chief minister Basavaraj Bommai is under pressure to relax existing Covidinduced restrictions. He will chair a review meeting on the pandemic the situation on Saturday where health experts will weigh in.

Experts are planning to recommend these measures as they believe active cases will decline from next week for multiple reasons, including ‘purposive testing’ and a receding trend of the third wave.

Last week, Bommai lifted weekend curfew, but continued – despite tremendous pressure – with other curbs such as night curfew, 50% occupancy in restaurants, pubs and movie halls, and travel restrictions for those coming from Maharashtra, Goa , and Kerala. These curbs remain in force till Monday (January 31). Also, since the Omicron variant is far less deadly than the Delta variant and since the infection is of a shorter duration, unlike the second wave, there has been little or no pressure on
medical infrastructure in the state. As a result, sources say, the government is likely to reduce the hours of night curfew by 90 minutes – from the existing 10pm-5am to 11. 30pm-5am. However, all other curbs may continue.

The chief minister is also reportedly in favour of reopening schools in a phased manner and it is likely that on-campus classes
for grades 5-9 will be allowed. A decision on reopening schools for grades 1-4 will be examined a week later. However virologists have suggested reopening lower classes first since younger children are less vulnerable to the infection.

The Covid-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met on Friday to review the situation and suggest the way forward for the government. “We have prepared guidelines applicable for the period after Monday and the chief minister will take a final call on restrictions,” said Dr MK Sudarshan, TAC chairman

However, stakeholders want all curbs including night curfew and 50% occupancy in hotels, pubs and theatres to go. They say the hospitality and entertainment sectors have been badly hit by curfew and curbs.

“We know the pandemic situation is easing remarkably although several cases are still being reported,” said Uday Garudachar, BJP MLA and owner of Garuda Mall. “While most people who catch the infection are asymptomatic, others have mild to moderate symptoms. It is time to lift curbs so that sectors like retail, hospitality and entertainment are saved from financial distress. They can function without restrictions with strict imposition of Covid norms. ”

Virologists and domain experts concur with the argument as they believe the number of active cases will decrease because of the state’s ‘purposive testing’ policy that restricts testing to only symptomatic individuals. The downward trend of the pandemic at the national level, where the curve is already showing signs of plateauing, is another reason.

“At this stage, curbs only help in inducing seriousness among the people, but the containment strategy should focus on other measures such as stepping up vaccinations including administration of the third dose,” said noted virologist Dr T Jacob John.

On Thursday, the government had issued guidelines on ‘purposive testing’ following which the number of tests on Thursday fell from 2. 2 lakh on Wednesday to 1. 9 lakh. Subsequently, active cases fell to 3. 3 lakh from 3. 6 lakh.

On Friday, the number of tests dipped to 1. 5 lakh and active cases dipped to 2. 9 lakh. Officials said the trend is likely to continue.