A task force of experts constituted by the Kerala government has recommended district-wise, phase-by-phase relaxation of the COVID-19 lockdown measures post April 14, lasting till after middle of May, while keeping a close eye on the number of new infections in the state.
The 17-member task force headed by former chief secretary K M Abraham, that submitted the report to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan Monday evening, said large-scale movement of people across international and state boundaries should not be considered till the situation was “under control in every state”.
Calling for a withdrawal strategy “calibrated to ensure that the case load is always kept below the (surge) capacity of the healthcare system’’, the panel laid out the phases in which relaxation could be done post the lockdown.
The first phase would include districts that haven’t seen more than one new case for a week leading up to the April 14 review (i.e. April 7-13); have not seen an increase of more than 10% in the numbers under home surveillance in that period; and have no coronavirus hotspots. Each phase would be a fortnight-long.
In the second phase would be included districts that have not seen more than one new case of COVID-19 in an entire fortnight since prior review; where the number of those under home watch has not gone up by more than 5% in that period; and where there are no hotspots. The third phase would cover districts that have had no new case for a fortnight since last review; seen a decrease of more than 5% in the number of persons under home surveillance in that period; as well as have no hotspots.
The CM said they would submit the task force’s recommendations to the Centre. “The state is awaiting the decision of the Union government on lockdown after April 14. Only then would the state decide whether any change in the is required,” Vijayan said.
As per the report, in the first phase, there would be no airline and rail movement in the state, nor any person from outside Kerala allowed, other than what is permitted currently. No person shall be allowed outside house without face masks, senior citizens with co-morbidity not allowed at all, and there would be restrictions on the number of persons who can travel in a vehicle.
Besides, only one person per house would be allowed outside at a time, for a specific purpose, and for not more than three hours. Supermarkets and malls, film theatres, bars, conference halls and hotels with closed air-conditioning can’t open, and all places of worship shall remain closed with no religious gatherings allowed. Private vehicles will be allowed on the basis of odd-even pattern for six days, with total ban on Sundays except for essential services.
In the second phase, the committee said, short-distance bus services can be allowed with restrictions on number of passengers. The MNREGS and all micro, small and medium enterprises can be re-started at this time with health protocols.
In the third phase, inter-district bus service and essential domestic flights, both with restricted capacity ensuring social distancing, can be allowed. Universities and educational institutions will open only for the conduct of exams, while malls and hotels can operate but with restricted entry.
International air travel and flights from other parts of India may not be allowed till full relaxation of restrictions in the state. Every entrant to the state would have to undergo 14-day home quarantine, with the district administration monitoring movement, and health and police departments the borders.
The total count of COVID-19 cases in Kerala is now 336, with nine cases reported on Tuesday, after testing of 11,232 samples. Two people have died while 73 have recovered. The number of people under observation stands at 1.46 lakh, down from the high of 1.71 lakh on Saturday, when quarantine of hundreds of persons with travel history from abroad as well as their contacts ended.
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