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Health workers conducting COVID-19 test for government officials, police personnel and others prior to Assembly and Council session at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on Friday. (ANI Photo)
Health workers conducting COVID-19 test for government officials, police personnel and others prior to Assembly and Council session at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on Friday. (ANI Photo)

Bengaluru lets its guard down even as covid cases rise

  • The pandemic-induced economic crisis has taken precedence over covid-19, as the out-of-control health crisis has now been reduced to a few warning signs at entrances of establishments, along with temperature scanners and sanitizer dispensers

After nearly five months, Mathew's, the iconic eatery on St. Mark's Road in Bengaluru resumed business on Thursday.

Eager patrons cautiously made their way into the restaurant, which has more empty chairs than the staff and customers combined—a rare sight in the eatery where waiting time used to extend to nearly an hour on weekends.

P.Ooman Mathew, who owns and operates the eatery, which has been around since 1952, says he sent out a message to customers on Tuesday which was received with much enthusiasm.

"We will see how it goes for a week and see if we need to make any change," Mathew said.

Mathew's is among the hundreds of restaurants that has kept its shutters down for a variety of reasons, including the shortage of working capital and lower footfall due to the pandemic.

However, the pandemic-induced economic crisis has taken precedence as the out-of-control health crisis has now been reduced to a few warning signs at the entry of establishments, along with the temperature scanners and sanitizer dispensers.

Although daily number of cases is soaring upwards of 4,000, Bengaluru has let its guard down to allow businesses and other activities to resume, while looking away from the health crisis that continues to spiral out of control.

Data shows that Bengaluru added 28,389 cases to its tally in the last one week. It has clocked over 4,000 cases every day barring last Sunday when it reported 2,722 cases.

The city has lost nearly 3,000 lives to the virus so far.

"One person can infect about 406 people in just 30 days, if the infected person does not maintain social distance and take other precautions," Shalini Rajneesh, additional chief secretary and state nodal officer for covid-19 testing said.

Bengaluru accounts for 232,663 cases out of 601,767 in the state. Its active case count at 47,145 is almost half that of the entire state's—that is, 107,616, according to government data.

Bengaluru on its own has more cases than the entire Odisha, Kerala, Telangana and 20 other states, according to data.

The unlock 5.0 guidelines that comes into effect from today (Thursday) allow for graded reopening of schools, colleges, theatres and even permit social and political gatherings which have the potential to infect a far higher number of the over 10 million residents.

Karnataka's medical education minister K. Sudhakar on Wednesday said that fines for not wearing masks have been increased to Rs1,000, which as a deterrent, falls short of bringing the desired impact.

Politicians who have advocated smaller gatherings, social distancing and wearing masks, have barely followed the practice and failed to inspire confidence among the public.

Inadequate financial assistance to small businesses has not helped either as entrepreneurs look to resume operations to cut mounting losses and debts.

Karnataka has removed all restrictions on movement, which has seen people from Bengaluru flocking to holiday destinations such as Chikkamagaluru, Kodagu and other places by their hundreds.

The focus on Bengaluru has deprived similar attention on rural Karnataka, which has seen a sharp rise in cases as well. Nearly 30,000 cases have been reported from the 29 other districts of Karnataka where healthcare infrastructure is poor compared with Bengaluru.

Attitudes of both the authorities and people have changed during the course since the lockdown started 24 March that has tilted away from life to livelihood. "We have to carry on," says Mathew.

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