With Covid-19 cases exploding in the state and an all-party meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan stated that his government doesn’t want to implement a complete shutdown. Instead, there will be a strengthening of restrictions on public events like marriages and funerals and effective monitoring of guidelines like wearing of masks and maintaining physical distance, he said.
Responding to a reporter’s question at the press briefing, Vijayan said, “I cannot predict what will come up for discussion at the all-party meeting tomorrow (Sept 29). Everyone is aware how critical the situation is. The government doesn’t want to go toward a complete shutdown. But at the same time, there will be tough restrictions. Covid-guidelines such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing have to be followed. There is a sense among a section of the people that these guidelines are not required anymore. That is dangerous.”
He added, “Even in healthy people, the infection is leading to disastrous consequences. Even after recovering from Covid, people continue to feel its after-effects. So quarantine measures will have to be followed. If Covid guidelines are adhered to strictly, we can control the spread of the infection.”
The CM said the government will continue with restrictions on the number of people attending weddings and funerals. Additionally, it is pondering about increasing the fine on people not wearing masks in public. At present, the maximum number of people attending a wedding and a funeral in the state cannot exceed 50 and 20, respectively.
If shop-owners are found allowing customers to crowd inside the premises in violation of physical distancing measures, stringent action will be taken, the CM said. Depending on the size of the store, the owner must determine how many people can be allowed inside at a time. Gloves and sanitisers must be available for customers to use. Others, waiting outside the store, must follow queues.
On Monday, Kerala added 4538 cases to its tally, taking the active case count to 57,879 people. The decrease in the number of cases compared to Sunday, when nearly 7500 cases were found, is mainly on account of reduced testing over the weekend. The state tested 36,027 samples in the last 24 hours, a big drop from the 54,493 samples it tested the previous day.
The chief minister, admitting that the situation in the state is extremely critical, said Covid-19 infections are doubling every 20 days in the state. Kerala’s case per million is 5143 compared to the national average of 5852. However, the state’s case fatality rate, 0.4%, is much lower than the national fatality rate of 1.6%. But if the spread of the infection grows larger, then the number of deaths will also increase, he pointed out.
He said the state currently has 225 Covid first-line treatment centres (FLTC), which have been designed for asymptomatic and those with mild symptoms. Out of the 32,979 beds available at these centres, 19478 beds are currently filled, as of Sep 28. For those with severe symptoms, 38 Covid second-line treatment centres (SLTC) have been set up, out of which 18 are currently in operation housing 689 patients.
Limited pilgrims allowed for Sabarimala pilgrimage
With the annual Mandala-Makaravilakku festival slated to begin at Sabarimala on November 15, the state government has decided to allow a limited number of pilgrims including from neighbouring states in compliance with Covid-19 protocol. Admission to the hill shrine will be strictly through the VirtualQ system of the Kerala Police to prevent overcrowding and allow pilgrims to have easier means of worship. Those above the age of 65 and below 10 are discouraged from travelling to Sabarimala, the chief minister said.
Contrary to past years, the pilgrims would have to depart from the shrine immediately after offering prayers. Drinking water will be provided in steel tumblers at a refundable cost of Rs 100 on the return of the tumbler. State transport buses will provide regular services from Pamba, the base-point, to other parts of the state. Antigen tests will be carried out at various centres to prevent suspected patients from arriving at the shrine.
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