Karnataka has withdrawn a night curfew order – imposed a day earlier amid concerns over a mutated and rapidly-spreading coronavirus strain – hours before it was to come into effect, and shortly after state police issued SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for the curfew period.
The recall marked a second U-turn in three days – on Tuesday Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said “there is no need for it” and on Wednesday he said it would be imposed “in view of the new strain of coronavirus. Today he said the curfew was being withdrawn “in view of public opinion”.
“The night curfew had been announced to curtail the spread of the new coronavirus strain after getting advice from experts. After getting feedback from the public, the issue was re-examined, and in consultation with cabinet colleagues and senior officials, the decision has been withdrawn,” a statement from the Chief Minister’s office said.
“The public should undertake self-quarantine, use masks, social distance, avoid unnecessary travel and avoid government guidelines on the control of COIVD-19,” the statement added.
Karnataka, which had followed Maharashtra in announcing the night curfew – had said it would restrict non-essential movement between 11 pm and 5 am (the Chief Minister earlier said 10 pm and 6 am) till January 2.
The night curfew, ordered because of fears that the new mutant strain of the novel coronavirus would lead to yet another surge in infections, had not been well received by shopkeepers, traders and businessmen in the state.
The curfew coincided with the Christmas and New Year holiday period, which hotels, restaurants, bars and pubs in Bengaluru and other major cities would have been hoping to cash in on, particularly since many are running on months of accumulated losses due to the earlier lockdown.
“Between December 23 and January 2, no event or festive celebration is allowed to take place after 10 pm. It applies to every kind of event,” Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar told reporters on Wednesday, when asked if Christmas celebrations would be allowed.
Fears that the new strain of Covid – detected in the UK in September and believed to be up to 70 per cent more infectious – led to the centre temporarily banning flights from that country till December 31. Those arriving on flights before the ban came into effect were tested on arrival.
The centre has said the new strain has yet to be detected in India, and that it is prepared to deal with its emergence should cases be reported. 22 people arriving on flights from the UK over the past few days tested positive; their samples have been sent for further testing to confirm the strain.
On Monday, Maharashtra announced a 11 pm to 6 am night curfew till January 5 in Mumbai and other cities. That too was a day after Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said he was against such an order but was only acting on experts’ recommendation.
Maharashtra has the reported the most number of Covid cases in the country since the pandemic began in December last year – over 19 lakh – followed by Karnataka with more than 9.1 lakh.