Bengaluru: Degree colleges, which reopened after Diwali on November 17 across Karnataka would be closed if COVID-19 cases rise again, said state Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar on Sunday.

Under the circumstances, reports emerged that at least 130 students got infected by Covid-19.

"If the cases go up, then, as you have said in your (media) reports, we will have to go for a shutdown once again. There is no alternative," Sudhakar told reporters in Dharwad while responding to queries about the rising coronavirus cases among students.

"Though degree, engineering and polytechnic colleges reopened for final year students after remaining shut for over eight months, we may close them again if COVID-19 cases increase in the state, as safety of students and teachers is more important than offline classes," Sudhakar told reporters here in the state's northwest region.

The response of students to the reopening of colleges has also been tepid last week, as besides negative COVID-19 test report from RT-PCR method, consent letter from parents was mandatory for attending classes with face mask.

"As students were not getting test reports in time and many parents have been wary of sending their wards for offline classes, the attendance was 15-20% in most of the colleges in five days last week," Sudhakar recalled.

According to officials in the higher education department, the decision to reopen colleges were taken as students were not able to grasp the lessons online due to various reasons such as lack of gadgets, poor connectivity and health issues such as eye-sight. Besides, the faculties and the college staff were staring at unemployment.

The minister agreed that schools in the state have not yet reopened amid the fear of the coronavirus.

“The youth have immunity, but I would not say that the students won’t contract the disease. We must protect students, as well as shape their academic future. Since we have a big responsibility, we decided to reopen schools and colleges in a phased manner,” he informed.

Though COVID-19 cases have been declining across the southern state over the last three weeks and recoveries have been outnumbering positive cases, the state's tally at 8,71,342 till Friday is the second largest after Maharashtra across the country, with 24,714 active cases and 11,641 deaths till date.

"As we have to protect the students and shape their academic future, colleges have been conducting online classes since August to ensure continuity in their studies," said Sudhakar.