Karnataka reconstitutes Covid Task Force amid raging pandemic; Ashwath Narayan is chairperson

News Network
May 3, 2021

Bengaluru, May 3: Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister CN Ashwath Narayan has been named as chairperson of the Covid-19 Task Force, which has been reconstituted amid the raging pandemic.

The state-level Covid-19 Task Force will have Primary & Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar, Information & Public Relations Minister CC Patil and Health & Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar as members, according to a government order.

The task force is authorized to review Covid-19 containment and management measures, besides creating awareness among citizens.

The ministerial task force was first constituted in March 2020 when the pandemic was in its initial stages in Karnataka. The task force was headed by the then Health Minister B Sriramulu, Sudhakar, Narayan, Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai and the then Chief Secretary TM Vijay Bhaskar.

Apparently, the task force became inactive after Sriramulu was divested of the health portfolio that was given to Sudhakar in October 2020. Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa was authorized to reconstitute the task force. Deputy Chief Minister and Public Works Minister Govind Karjol was appointed as head of the task force. Now, Narayan will replace him.

The chief secretary, additional chief secretary (health) and principal secretary (medical education) will assist the task force, the government order said.

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News Network
April 24,2021

Abu Dhabi, Apr 24: The General Authority of Civil Aviation and the National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) announced an update on previously announced regulations with the clarification that entry from India will be suspended for all incoming flights on national and foreign carriers, as well as those carrying transit passengers, with the exception of transit flights coming to the UAE and heading onward to India.

This decision includes the entry of travellers who were in India in the last 14 days prior to coming to the UAE.

Effective 24 April 2021 and for the next 10 days, Emirates flights from India to the UAE are suspended. 

Flights between the two countries will continue to operate allowing the transportation of passengers from the UAE to India. It will also allow the transfer of exempted groups from India to the UAE with the application of the aforementioned precautionary measures. 

These groups include UAE citizens, diplomatic missions appointed by the two countries, official delegations, those on businessmen-chartered flights, and those holding golden residency, provided that they undertake preventive measures that include quarantine for 10 days and a PCR test at the airport, as well as on the fourth and eighth days following entry into the country. 

Moreover, the required PCR test period has been reduced from 72 hours to 48 hours prior to travel from accredited laboratories that issue test results carrying a QR code.

The authority also confirmed that it is required for those coming from India through other countries to stay in those countries for at least 14 days before being allowed to enter the country, starting from 23:59 on Saturday April 24, 2021. These regulations will apply for a period of 10 days, which can be extended, while cargo flights continue to operate between the two countries.

The authority called upon all travelers affected by the decision to follow up with the relevant airlines to change or reschedule their flights and to ensure their safe return to their final destinations without delay.

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News Network
April 24,2021

lockdown.jpg

Bengaluru, Apr 24: With Bengaluru recording 1.5 lakh active coronavirus cases, the highest for any city in the country, the Karnataka Task Advisory Committee on Covid- 19 has asked the state government to impose stringent restrictions, including lockdown for 14 days to break the chain.

The members of the panel have also recommended to the government to increase the number of beds to tide over the crisis.

The TAC members also foresee the third wave Covid in October-November and have, accordingly, insisted that the government should complete the vaccination of vulnerable age groups before the next wave hits. Professor and Head of Lifecourse Epidemiology, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Giridhar Babu said:

"I have on record said that there are two main strategies. Firstly, we need to reduce the number of cases and that will happen only by a stringent lockdown for at least 14 days. Secondly, we should expand the bed capacity by taking as much as possible beds from all the private medical colleges, nursing homes and hospitals."

According to him, the 14 days lockdown will reduce the number of infections. The TAC member said the state may witness the peak of the second wave by the May end or the first week of June. Eminent cardiologist and director of the Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, C N Manjunath said he had in November 2020 predicted the arrival of the second wave of Covid in March or April based on the pattern of spread and resurgence in Europe.

While the Covid cases may come down by May end or the first week of June, people's behaviour for the next six to nine months will hold the key.

"The most important is when the cases come down, guards should not be let down. Facemask wearing and physical distancing should continue while most importantly congregation should be banned," he said. The health experts were of the opinion that the healthcare system is totally suffocated.

"In the first phase, the cases were coming in a staggered manner. So the daily rise in a particular state was 200 to 300 cases. Now it's in thousands," the cardiologist said.

Giridhar Babu too concurred with him. "The BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) has informed the high court that there are no more ICU beds. So, the court has also said the situation is very scary. That will summarise the current status," Babu explained. Both were unanimous that the vaccination drive should be completed by October before the possible third wave hits the nation.

"Vaccination should go on. By October- November the entire country should be vaccinated. Otherwise, we are in for a rude shock again," Manjunath said. Meanwhile, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta said the officials at the civic agency's Covid war room are working over time.

On the shortage of oxygen and essential drugs such as Remdesivir, the Chief Commissioner told the news agency that the whole country was grappling with it and the Centre and the state are dealing with it in an effective manner. To a query on the need for more ICU beds, he said already a few have been arranged and more have to be procured very soon. With 26,962 infections on Friday, the state touched the highest single-day spike in Covid cases.

There were 190 deaths too. More alarming was that the active cases in the state crossed two lakh mark of which 1.5 lakh are in Bengaluru alone.

Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa had during a video conference told the PM that the state needs about 1,500 tonnes of oxygen and two lakh vials of Remdesivir. To contain the alarming rise in Covid cases, the state has imposed night curfew and weekend curfews while ordering closure of many shops and business establishments. 

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Agencies
May 1,2021

Sydney, May 1: Australian residents and citizens who have been in India within 14 days of the date they plan to return home will be banned from entering Australia as of Monday and those who disobey will face fines and jail, government officials said.

The temporary emergency determination, issued late on Friday, is the first time Australia has made it a criminal offence for its citizens to return home.

The move is part of strict measures to stop travellers to Australia from the world's second most populous nation as it contends with a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The restrictions come into effect from May 3 and breaching the ban risks civil penalties and up to five years imprisonment, Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement.

"The government does not make these decisions lightly," Hunt said." However, it is critical the integrity of the Australian public health and quarantine systems is protected and the number of COVID-19 cases in quarantine facilities is reduced to a manageable level."

The government will reconsider the restrictions on May 15.

India's coronavirus death count passed 200,000 this week, and cases are nearing 19 million as virulent new strains have combined with "super-spreader" events such as political rallies and religious festivals.

Neela Janakiramanan, an Australian surgeon with family in India said the decision to "criminalise" Australians returning from India was disproportionate and overly punitive.

"Indian-Australians are seeing this as a racist policy because we are being treated different than people from other countries who have had similar waves of infection like the U.S., the UK and Europe. It is very hard to feel anything other than targeted as an ethnic group."

Human rights groups also voiced indignation at the ban, suggesting the government's focus should be on improving its quarantine system, not on punishment.

"This is an outrageous response. Australians have a right of return to their own country," Human Rights Watch's Australia director, Elaine Pearson said in a statement.

"The government should be looking for ways to safely quarantine Australians returning from India, instead of focusing their efforts on prison sentences and harsh punishments."

Australia, which has no community transmissions, on Tuesday introduced a temporary suspension of direct flights from India until mid-May. However, some Australians, including cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson, returned via Doha.

Tuesday's move had left over 9,000 Australians stranded in India, 650 of whom are registered as vulnerable, officials said.

Australia has all but stamped out the coronavirus after closing its borders to non-citizens and permanent residents in March 2020, recording just 29,800 cases and 910 deaths. 

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