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1 lakh tests per day, 25,000 cops on monitoring duty: Kerala tightens Covid-19 restrictions

If the present growth curve continues, Kerala is likely to replace Karnataka in the next one week as the state with the second-highest number of infections in the country.

By: Express Web Desk | Kochi |
January 29, 2021 3:04:35 pm

As Kerala registers a gradual rise in new infections with test positivity rate hovering between 9 per cent and 12 per cent over the last few weeks, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan underlined the government’s intent to impose additional restrictions to arrest the spread of the virus.

Once a model state of effective Covid-19 management and success during the early months of the pandemic, Kerala today carries the highest active caseload in the country. Seven of its districts figure in the top ten districts in the country with most active cases.

As of January 28, Kerala recorded 9,11,362 cases of which 72,634 cases are currently under treatment. A total of 3,682 persons have succumbed to the virus. If the present growth curve continues, Kerala is likely to replace Karnataka in the next one week as the state with the second-highest number of infections in the country. Maharashtra continues to be at the top with more than 20 lakh infections.

“As per statistics, less than 3 per cent of the population has been affected by Covid-19. Our state has the capability to counter the disease by providing the best healthcare to people. The spread of the disease has in no way overwhelmed our health systems and machinery. Despite the criticism we face, the government will not step back from its fight against Covid. We have to defend ourselves against the pandemic collectively,” the chief minister said.

As part of measures to stem the spread of the virus, Vijayan said the state government will hike the number of daily tests to 1 lakh out of which 75 per cent will be RT-PCR tests. Out of the total tests conducted by the state government till now, criticism arose that nearly 66 per cent of them were antigen tests which could give false negatives. Higher tests would mean detection of more cases within the community and thus prevent the transmission of the virus.

A study conducted by the community medicine department of the Medical College Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram showed that 56% of the Covid patients in Kerala contracted the infection from their own family members. This proved that it’s usually the person stepping out of the house for work/personal travel who’s carrying the infection to his/her own family.

The chief minister said ward-level ‘samithis’ or councils across the state would be revived as part of spreading awareness in the community about following Covid-19 protocols as well as monitoring the spread of the disease in the neighbourhood. In the run-up to the local body elections conducted in November last year, such councils had stopped functioning.

He said the councils, headed by the elected ward member or councillor, would be activated once again. Such councils would comprise local health workers, ASHA workers, Janamaithri police officers and volunteers.

The government also plans to deploy around 25,000 police officers in a first phase of Covid-19 surveillance and monitoring from Jan 29 to Feb 10. The officers would be tasked with enforcing protocols such as social distancing and wearing of masks at bus stands, railway stations, shopping malls and hospitals. Public are requested to cooperate with the police in maintaining law and order.

The chief minister once again requested the public to conduct weddings and public meetings in open-air venues as opposed to closed halls where there’s a greater possibility of virus transmission.

“When relaxations were given, people conducted weddings, etc like the pre-Covid era. This cannot be allowed. Rituals are important but crowds are to be avoided,” he said.

While the government does not intend to return to night-time curfews or lockdowns, Vijayan said people must avoid stepping out of their homes after 10 pm except for emergency purposes.

The state’s health department is carrying out extensive sero-surveillance and genome studies and the first report is expected by February 15. So far, 17.54 per cent of the state’s health workers have been given the first dose of the Covishield vaccine. The state has received over 9 lakh doses of the vaccine.

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