‘No specific Covid-19 guidelines for New Year bash, but exercise caution,’ says Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah

Karnataka will set up a Cabinet sub-committee to ensure the smooth handling of the Covid-19 situation, he assured.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Dec 21, 2023 | 8:15 PMUpdatedDec 21, 2023 | 8:15 PM

Karnataka Chief Minister holds high-level meeting on Covid-19's JN.1 variant.

Karnataka will not be issuing any separate advisory for New Year celebrations in the light of a spike in Covid-19 cases, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said, after a review meeting on Thursday, 21 December.

However, he advised people to be careful and suggested wearing masks in crowded places even though the state’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) did not recommend mandating face masks now for the general population.

The committee asked those with comorbidities and senior citizens (above 60) to compulsorily wear masks while stepping outdoors.

Siddaramaiah wore a face mask while speaking to reporters. He said there was no need to panic but reiterated the need for all to take precautionary measures against the virus.

“Wearing a mask is mandatory for people aged above 60. The Technical Advisory Committee and experts have suggested that all people need not wear masks now. As a precautionary measure, it is better to wear one in crowded places,” he said.

Related: JN.1 in India: Karnataka Health department’s Dos and Don’ts

Cabinet sub-committee to be formed 

With Karnataka recording three Covid-related deaths and a slight increase in active cases in recent days, the state government decided to constitute a sub-committee to ensure the smooth handling of the situation.

“A Cabinet sub-committee will be constituted. The Cabinet meeting will decide on its chairman and members. The sub-committee will meet frequently, and coordinate with the Technical Advisory Committee (consisting of experts). The TAC’s advice should be implemented in toto,” he said.

Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, Home Minister G Parameshwara, Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao, Medical Education Minister Sharanprakash Patil, top government officials, and TAC members attended the review meeting.

Related: WHO classifies JN.1 as ‘Variant of Interest’

Three deaths

While trying to allay fears, Siddaramaiah said that Covid-19 cases were increasing in the state and that three people have died of the disease in the past six days. However, he hastened to add that Covid-19 alone could not be blamed for their deaths.

“It cannot be said that they died (only) due to Covid. They had comorbidities or associated diseases like conditions related to kidney, heart, lungs, blood pressure, diabetes, along with Covid-19 infection,” Siddaramaiah said.

He said that the review meeting took inputs from the TAC. The Chief Minister instructed officials to ensure that the “mistakes of the past” like shortage of oxygen, beds, ventilators, and medicines are not repeated. Along with providing treatment to Covid-19 patients, those with comorbidities should also get medical care.

“I have suggested that, if required, a vaccination drive should be started for those who are not vaccinated as it is an important preventive measure,” he added.

Urging people not to panic or worry, but to remain cautious and follow precautionary measures, Siddaramaiah noted that the new “JN.1” strain is a subvariant of Omicron, which was prevalent in the past.

Exclusive: Is JN.1 ‘variant of interest’ a cause of worry? Dr Gagandeep Kang decodes

Number of cases in state

Meanwhile, Karnataka reported 24 new cases on Thursday, taking the number of active cases to 105. Of these cases, 85 are in home isolation and 20 in hospitals. 11 patients are in isolation wards across the state. Nine patients — including seven old cases — are under intensive care. No new admissions were made on Thursday, the Chief Minister said.

Siddaramaih clarified that those in ICUs have comorbidities along with Covid-19 infection. Meanwhile, the state has decided to increase testing for Covid-19 to 5,000-1,500 Rapid Antigen Test and 3,500 RT-PCR tests daily, Siddaramaiah said. About 1,000 tests will be carried out in Bengaluru, he added.

As of Thursday, the state tested 2,263 people and 24 tested positive for Covid-19. The majority of the tests were conducted in Bengaluru (1,540), followed by Belagavi and Shivamogga (107 each).

Tests were also conducted in Chikkaballapura (73), Kodagu (60), Vijayapura (55), Chikkamagaluru (51), Uttara Kannada (35), Davanagere (33), Mysuru and Udupi (27 each), Ballari, Mandya and Tumakuru (24), Gadag (17), Chitradurga (13), Dakshina Kannada (10), Kolar (9), Koppal and Vijayanagar (7), Ramanagara (6), Dharwad (1) and Yadgir (0).

Siddaramaiah warned that Karnataka might have more active cases with the increase in testing.

The Chief Minister suggested that private and government should set up dedicated wards with all facilities to treat Covid-19 patients.

Instructions have been issued to Health Department officials to make arrangements for oxygen, ventilators, and beds among other essential requirements, he said. Siddaramaiah also asked authorities to ensure enough doses of the vaccine, instead of waiting for the Government of India to provide them.