Wearing masks in public places has been made mandatory again in Karnataka amid a surge in cases of Covid-19 in neighbouring China, PTI reported.

Health Minister K Sudhakar said masks are compulsory inside closed spaces such as restaurants, pubs, theatre halls, schools and colleges. Two doses of vaccine are also compulsory for customers and those who serve at bars, restaurants and pubs.

The minister also said that the New Year celebrations in the state will be allowed till 1 am. “There should not be more people than the permitted capacity in places where the celebrations take place,” Sudhakar said, according to PTI. “No need to panic, just have to take precautions.”

The state health minister advised senior citizens, those with co-morbidities, pregnant women and children to avoid crowded places.

The decision was taken during a meeting about the Covid-19 situation in the state. It was chaired by Revenue Minister R Ashoka, who is the vice-chairperson of the State Disaster Management Committee.

The meeting was called amid a surge in cases reported in China and some other countries. A sub-lineage of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus – known as BF.7 – is said to be driving the recent spike in cases in China. It was first identified in India in July.

On Monday, Ashoka said that international passengers who test positive for Covid-19 will be monitored at two dedicated hospitals in Bengaluru and Mangaluru.

“We have been advised by the health experts to monitor international passengers, so they will be monitored at two dedicated hospitals – Bowring and Wenlock hospitals – at Bengaluru and Mangaluru respectively,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sudhakar also said that political parties can continue with their planned rallies, tours and events, but should follow the guidelines laid by the government.

On December 22, the Centre had directed officials to ramp up testing for Covid-19 and increase the number of samples being sent for genome sequencing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also urged everyone to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, including wearing masks in crowded places, in view of the upcoming festive season.