20 new COVID-19 cases in K'taka; Govt announces Rs 1,610 cr

package, hikes excise duty on liquor by 11% (Eds: Combines related stories) Bengaluru, May 6 (PTI) Seeking to provide much needed succour to people, including barbers and cab drivers, hit by the COVID-19, the Karnataka government on Wednesday announced a Rs 1,610 crore relief package and hiked excise duty on liquor by 11 per cent to mop up revenues as the state reported 20 new cases, taking the total to 693.

The measures announced by the Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa included a one-time compensation of Rs 5,000 each to thousands of washermen, barbers, auto rickshaw and taxi drivers, whose daily life has been affected.

It also decided to provide relief to farmers, Rs 25,000/ha compensation for affected flower-growers, certain relaxation in electricity bills for MSMEs and large industries, deposit of Rs 2,000 directly to the bank account of the handloom weavers and Rs 3,000 to building workers through direct benefit transfer.

The 11 per cent hike in excise duty announced is in addition to the 6 per cent that was announced in the budget.

'People from all sections of society are facing financial difficulties due to lockdown of more than one-and-a half months...the easing of lockdown does not mean it has ended. No one one should misuse relaxation, and cooperate in improving financial condition of the state,' the Chief Minister said.

'Within a week, we will transfer the amount to accounts (of beneficiaries). We have stopped all development activities and doing this on priority for the welfare of those in distress, despite financial limitations,' he told reporters.

According to health department's bulletin, as of 5 PM on May 6, cumulatively 693 COVID-19 positive cases have been confirmed in the state, it includes 29 deaths and 354 discharges.

It said, out of 309 active cases, 303 are in isolation at designated hospitals and are stable, while six are in intensive care unit.

Twentythree patients, who have recovered, have been discharged on Wednesday.

Thirteen out of 20 new cases are from Badami in Bagalakote district. Among them except one with Influenza Like Illness (ILI), rest are all contacts of a patient earlier tested positive.

From across the state, most number of infections have been reported in Bengaluru Urban with 155 cases, followed by Mysuru 88 and Belagavi 71.

A total of 88,777 samples had been tested so far, out of which 4,971 were tested on Wednesday alone with 83,056 of them returning negative.

Yediyurappa ruled out the demand of opposition Congress for a special assembly session on COVID-19 situation, but said he would soon meet the party leaders to discuss the relief measures taken by his government for various sections of people.

'Siddaramaiah (Leader of the opposition in the assembly), Shivakumar (State Congress president) want to meet me. I will give them time tomorrow or day after and will discuss with them. I think the things and amenities regarding which they wanted to discuss during the session, I have announced it today. There is no need for another session,' Yediyurappa said.

In another related development, the state government has withdrawn its request to the railways to run special trains for ferrying the stranded migrant workers, a day after Yediyurappa appealed to them not to return to their native places and assured to provide them employment in the state.