Karnataka may go for unlock in 4 to 5 phases: Minister

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(Updating with Health Minister's quotes) Bengaluru, June 9 (PTI) Karnataka Revenue Minister R Ashoka on Wednesday indicated that the state may go for unlocking in four to five phases after June 14, as the COVID-19 induced lockdown comes to an end.

'Keeping the number of deaths and new cases in mind and aimed at bringing down the COVID infections further, lockdown will not be relaxed at one go.Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai, Health Minister K Sudhakar and I have held detailed discussions with the Chief Minister in this regard,' Ashoka said.

Speaking to reporters here, he said lockdown will be relaxed in phases, most probably it may be done in four to five phases.

'First will be timings, now the relaxation (for shopping) that is there between 6 to 10 am, it may get extended further. Also those who go for a walk at parks may get some relief.All this is subjected to a final decision by the Chief Minister.Lockdown will not be relaxed at one go,' he added.

Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa is likely to call a meeting of Ministers, officials and experts on June 11 or 12, to discuss and take a decision on the unlocking process.

The State Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), comprising experts, is also said to have recommended a gradual unlocking of activities in the state.

Noting that the number of daily cases in Bengaluru is still hovering in the 2,000 range, Ashoka, who is also the Vice- Chairman of Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority, said it has to come below 500.

'We will also have to keep in mind the rise in positive cases as we unlock,' he said.

In response to a question, Ashoka further stated that the work-from-home system that is in place for the IT/BT and certain sectors will continue, while exports oriented sectors, medicine and medical equipment manufacturers among others have already been given exemption.

Later in the day, Health Minister K Sudhakar too said lifting all restrictions at once may trigger a surge in cases.So the curbs will be eased in a staggered manner and the CM will take a final decision on the modalities of unlocking, he said.

Stating that some sectors will be opened up and restrictions will continue on some activities, he said, 'advice of experts will be conveyed to the CM, who will take a final decision after discussion with senior ministers. As per experts' opinion, if positivity rate is less than 5 per cent and cases are less than 5,000, curbs can be lifted.' 'There is no confusion on lifting restrictions.

Other states like Maharashtra, have opened up only after reduction in cases.If you compare with other states, the second wave has relatively subdued quickly in our state,' he added.

The Karnataka government had initially announced 14 days 'close-down' from April 27, but subsequently imposed a complete lockdown from May 10 to May 24 as the COVID cases continued to spike.

Citing lockdown yielding results and experts' advice, it was further extended till June 7 and then again till June 14.

Karnataka on Tuesday reported less than 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 and 179 fatalities, taking the total number of infections to 27,17,289 and the death toll to 32,099. PTI KSU BN BALA BN BALA