The mask mandate is back in Karnataka amid a fear of Covid cases rising on the back of the Omicron sub-variant of coronavirus — BF.7. The government has also asked owners of pubs and restaurants to limit New Year celebrations to 1 am. Last week, the state government had said that it would bring back the mask mandate amid a fear of rising Covid cases, especially in the wake of an unprecedented surge in China.

Karnataka Health Minister Keshava Sudhakar on Monday said, “Masks have been made mandatory inside theatres, schools, and colleges. Masks will be mandatory to celebrate the New Year in pubs, restaurants, and bars. New Year celebrations must end before 1 am. No need to panic, just have to take precautions.” “Masks will be compulsory at closed places, and air conditioned rooms, and crowded places in outdoor celebrations. There should not be more people than the permitted capacity in places where the celebrations take place,” Sudhakar said.

The government has assured people that there will be a phased implementation of anti-Covid measures to avoid any inconvenience. Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Monday said: “The current COVID situation was discussed at the cabinet meeting today, about the need to create awareness among the public about increase in booster dose, testing, making testing compulsory for Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) cases, wearing masks in closed places.”

“We will have to bring in preventive measures step by step, without hampering normal life and economic activities in any way,” Bommai added.

The state also made 2% random testing of international passengers arriving in the state compulsory at airports last week. “We are going to issue advisory to wear masks in indoor locations, closed spaces and air-conditioned rooms. Also, there will be mandatory testing of ILI and SARI cases across Karnataka,” Sudhakar had said.

He said dedicated Covid wards in all district hospitals with sufficient beds and supply of oxygen will be opened soon. There will also be coordination with private hospitals and super speciality hospitals for reserving beds to treat Covid patients, as existed during the peak of Covid a year ago, he added.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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