Bengaluru, facing India's second-highest COVID-19 surge, to enter lockdown


FILE PHOTO: Software professionals assisting municipal authorities work on their terminals inside a "war room" focused on tracking the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike office in Bengaluru, India July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Nivedita Bhattacharjee

BENGALURU (Reuters) - The city of Bengaluru, home to the technology operations of hundreds of global companies, is to enter a two-week lockdown as India battles a sharp surge in COVID-19 infections, officials said on Monday.

Karnataka state, of which Bengaluru is capital, will also lock down from Tuesday evening for 14 days, the state chief minister, B.S. Yediyurappa, told reporters after a cabinet meeting. Groceries and other essential services will operate for four hours in the mornings, he said.

The region is the latest to impose restrictions after similar lockdowns or curfews in many parts of India, which is in the middle of a massive second wave of infections that has swamped its health system.

Bengaluru, a city of 12 million, reported more than 20,000 new infections on Sunday, its highest single-day tally so far. Among major Indian cities, Bengaluru's daily surge is currently second only to that in the national capital Delhi.

Still, its test-positivity rate — the percentage of people tested who are found to have the disease — of 5.4% is much less than Delhi and financial hub Mumbai. The World Health Organization considers positivity rates above 5% to be concerning.

(Graphic: COVID-19 cases in major Indian cities: https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/INDIA/azgpojwjxvd/chart.png)

(Graphic: Daily COVID-19 cases in India: https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/INDIA/xlbpgemjlpq/chart.png)

Microsoft, Amazon and Goldman Sachs are among the hundreds of multi-national firms with technology or IT operations in Bengaluru which employ thousands of English-speaking professionals.

Indian IT services giants including Infosys, Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services also have major operations in the city.

Thomson Reuters, parent of Reuters News, has operations in Bengaluru, including its news division.

Much of city's white-collar workforce has worked remotely for the past year, but other industries in Karnataka, including apparel manufacturing, have faced disruptions which have led to layoffs in some cases.

The curbs come as India's hospitals, both in Bengaluru and elsewhere, are overwhelmed by a flood of patient admissions. The country has given more than 141 million vaccine doses, but only forms a small proportion of its 1.4 billion population.

Karnataka will provide free vaccinations to those between 18-44 years of age at all government vaccination sites, Yediyurappa added.

(Reporting by Chandini Monnappa in Bengaluru; Editing by Catherine Evans and Angus MacSwan)

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