INTERVIEW | Lockdown, border closure helped Karnataka to fight COVID-19: Yediyurappa

Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa speaks about measures taken by Karnataka to tackle the pandemic, and how prepared the state is for a grimmer scenario.
Chief Minister BS Yeddiyurappa during a interview TNIE in Bengaluru on Thursday. (Photo | Vinod Kumar T/EPS)
Chief Minister BS Yeddiyurappa during a interview TNIE in Bengaluru on Thursday. (Photo | Vinod Kumar T/EPS)

BENGALURU: As healthcare professionals are on the frontline battling the coronavirus pandemic, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has been supplementing their efforts by closely monitoring the situation and ensuring proper coordination among various agencies.

What is your assessment of the current situation?

We discussed the situation in detail at the cabinet meeting and almost all the ministers suggested that we continue the lockdown, at least till April-end. Even experts are suggesting that we lift the lockdown in a staggered manner. On Saturday, the PM is addressing all chief ministers via video conferencing and we will take a decision based on his suggestion.

Karnataka, so far, seems to have managed to keep the numbers under control. What have you done differently compared to other states?

We acted fast. Immediately after one death was reported from Kalaburagi (the first COVID-19 death in India), we took strict measures to contain the spread of the virus. In fact, we were the first in India to start the lockdown. It is being enforced very strictly, with around 80 per cent success. Around 28,000 vehicles have been seized and cases booked against a number of people violating the lockdown. Closure of borders with other states too helped us. Compared to other states, Karnataka is in a better situation. But I am not happy. That is why we have decided to continue the lockdown and we will take a final decision on the basis of how people are going to support it till April 14.

Despite lockdown, there has been a steady increase in the number of positive cases. Is it because of the increase in the number of tests?

We have taken all precautionary measures like conducting more tests in districts that have reported a high number of cases. We have also instructed officials to ramp up testing in such districts.

In your assessment, how has the lockdown helped contain the spread of the virus?

Staying at home and maintaining social distance is the only way to contain it. We have taken a bold step in the interest of the people, but they are not able to understand it properly.

How long can the state sustain the lockdown, as you have to build health infrastructure and also run welfare schemes to take care of the underprivileged?

A decision on the lockdown will be taken after discussing with the PM. As for the underprivileged, we have sanctioned Rs 2,000 to 15 lakh families and ration for two months is being provided through the Public Distribution System. Many people are also coming forward to help the poor by distributing food and other items. Not a single person is suffering from hunger in Karnataka. We are trying our level best to reach out to everyone.

Are we prepared to handle the situation if there is a spike in numbers?

We are fully prepared to handle any eventuality. We have a stock of 2,82,934 N95 masks and we have ordered another 10,000. The central government will also supply masks. We have ordered 10 lakh PPEs (Personal Protection Equipment) for healthcare professionals. Of these, 2,10,245 have been supplied and now we have stock of 78,245. We are expecting more supplies within the next two-three days. We have ordered 1,574 ventilators and have 24, and are expecting another 26 in the next three-four days. We have 50 ventilators now. We have 2,500 to 3,000 beds in Bengaluru and 150-200 beds in all districts. We have notified 17 exclusive COVID-19 hospitals in the state. Of them, seven are in Bengaluru.

The government decided to cut legislators’ salary by 30 per cent. Any plans to cut state government employees’ salary?

No. As of now, we are not touching government employees. Let us wait and see. In terms of treatment, State has okayed plasma infusion technology that has been developed and awaiting a nod from the Centre. Besides, India has decided to export hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). Do you think allowing HCQ export will be a problem? Do we have enough stock?
We have sufficient stock. There is no problem.

What is the report you’ve got on this line of treatment? Is HCQ working?

Doctors told us that the therapeutic use of HCQ is working elsewhere, but in Karnataka, we have not come to that stage yet.

Karnataka is home to the IT/BT industry, will you allow reopening of those sectors as suggested by the expert committee?

We are thinking on those lines. As of now, they are all working from home. Around 50 per cent of them can work from office, but the decision will be taken after April 14.

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