Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan Tuesday censured the Opposition parties for holding protests across the state in violation of established Covid-19 protocol, saying the protests put the health of police officers at risk, with over a hundred policemen testing positive for the virus.
A total of 101 policemen involved in controlling the Opposition-led protests over the past couple of weeks have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Chief Minister said at a press briefing. The list of officers include a deputy superintendent, an inspector, 12 sub-inspectors, eight assistant sub-inspectors, eight senior civil police officers and 71 civil police officers. At least 164 officers are on the primary contact list of those infected and an additional 171 officers are under quarantine.
The chief minister said, “Organisations like the WHO have stated that avoiding crowds is one of the best measures of defending against Covid-19. Violent, crowded protests are being organised in violation of that rule. Opportunities are being created this way for the virus to spread easily. It is very unfortunate that senior officials and cops who are dealing with such protesters are getting infected with Covid-19.”
Opposition parties led chiefly by the Congress and the BJP have been agitating across the state for the last couple of weeks demanding the resignation of state higher education minister KT Jaleel over his interrogation by probe agencies including the Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with an alleged FCRA violation case and the probe into the gold smuggling racket.
Many of these protests, led by the parties’ youth and student wings, have been seen as violating Covid-19 safety norms like wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, especially in cities like Thiruvananthapuram where an alarming rise in cases is being reported.
“This (protests) is an obstacle to the efforts of the Kerala government to prevent Covid-19. Protesters are not following social distancing protocol. I request all political parties to take responsibility for this. The police force has been working untiringly as part of the Covid-19 defence measures. Everyone must think if they deserve to be rewarded for their work by spreading the virus through their ranks. They are also humans,” Vijayan said.
The chief minister urged political leaders and workers to adopt democratic and safe means of registering protests so that the public are not harmed during a pandemic.
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