The Karnataka government has stepped up COVID-19 precautionary measures in the state amid a rise in cases and worries over new strain ‘Omicron’. Screening of international passengers at the airports will be intensified and RT-PCR tests will now be mandatory for visitors from Maharashtra and Kerala.
The international arrivals from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong will have to undergo Covid testing and those who test positive will be placed under a 10-day institutional isolation said a government circular. All the travellers from these countries who entered the state in the last 15 days will have to undergo repeat RT-PCR testing, it said.
The ‘Omicron’ variant, which scientists say has a high number of mutations, was first detected in South Africa last week. A World Health Organisation (WHO) panel has classified it as a highly transmissible variant of concern, the same category that includes the Delta variant.
Two South African passengers who arrived in Bengaluru on November 20 tested positive for the coronavirus. The samples of both of them were sent for genome sequencing which confirmed they are infected by Delta Variant, said a top official.
The government has also decided to make second dose mandatory compulsory for those working in government offices, malls, hotels, cinema halls, zoos, swimming pools and libraries, state Revenue Minister R Ashok said after a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai. “The meeting decided to impose a temporary ban on cultural programmes in schools and colleges,” he added.
The state government also said the students from Kerala who have got a negative RT-PCR test report would have to get a second test done on the seventh day after the first report. This is only for those students who arrived in the state in the last 16 days. The screening process will be more intense for the students in medical and nursing colleges, it said.
The order comes close on the heels of several recent cases among medical students in Karnataka. Twelve students of a nursing college in Bengaluru tested positive on Friday even as a medical college in Karnataka’s Dharwad was also declared a COVID-19 cluster after the number of students and staff infected with coronavirus went up to 182 from 66 a day before.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a proactive approach and a review of plans for easing of international travel curbs and urged people to be more cautious amid emergence of the new variant.
Karnataka reported 402 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths on Saturday. The state has 6,611 active cases of infection. Karnataka has recorded 29,94,963 infections since the onset of the pandemic last year. The state has revised its daily testing target from 60,000 to 80,000 amid a sudden spike in cases.