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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Despite high caseload, Kerala relaxes curbs — with a test rider

The state has allowed opening of all shops, markets, hotels, banks, offices, financial institutions, factories, industrial establishments, tourist spaces and other establishments from Monday to Saturday. Shops can function from 7 am to 9 pm, and the rules come into effect Thursday.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvanananthapuram |
Updated: August 5, 2021 7:00:40 am
The curbs have been lifted following expert opinions in the matter and the concerns regarding the effect of prolonged closure of establishments on livelihood, the order has stated. (Photo: PTI)

Even as the daily Covid-19 cases continue to remain high, Kerala on Wednesday decided to ease several lockdown restrictions, although with a rider for those looking to venture out in public.

The state has allowed opening of all shops, markets, hotels, banks, offices, financial institutions, factories, industrial establishments, tourist spaces and other establishments from Monday to Saturday. Shops can function from 7 am to 9 pm, and the rules come into effect Thursday.

The order on lifting of restrictions, however, says that “only persons who have taken at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine before two weeks, or who are in possession of RT-PCR negative certificate taken 72 hours before, or who is in possession of Covid-19 positive results more than a month old will be allowed” inside shops, markets, banks, public and private offices, etc.

Children can accompany adults.

As the restrictions based on test positivity rate (TPR) at the local body-level failed to bring down the number of cases, the government has also changed the criteria for enforcing restrictions.

Announcing the changes, state Health Minister Veena George told the Assembly today that restrictions would be enforced at the level of local bodies, based on the weekly infection population ratio (WIPR). “WIPR is the total number of Covid-19 infections reported in the week multiplied by 1,000 divided by total population of the panchayat or urban ward,” George said. “In panchayats/urban wards with WIPR of more than 10, special intensified stringent lockdown restrictions shall be imposed.”

The WIPR will be reviewed every Wednesday,’’ the minister added.

On June 15,when the average test positivity rate (TPR) in the state was at 10 per cent, the government had decided to lift restrictions grading local bodies based on TPR. However, the TPR continued to hover above 10 per cent for the last 50 days, forcing the government to review the criteria for fixing restrictions.

The government was seen to be under pressure from traders, who are facing a severe crisis due to the restrictions. The traders, including pro-CPI(M) Kerala Vyapari Vyavasai Samithi, have threatened to open their outlets from Saturday if the government fails to lift the restrictions. Another factor that perhaps made the government lift lockdown restrictions, even as the state is reporting 1.70 lakh cases, is the impending Onam festival — the biggest shopping season in the state. On the eve of Bakrid, the government lifted the lockdown for three days, inviting the wrath of the Supreme Court.

Under new rules, vaccination or RT-PCR negative certificate is not necessary to leave home for essential activities, undergoing Covid-19 test, vaccination, medical emergency, medicine, death of relatives, marriage of close relatives, local travel, etc.

Public and private vehicles would be allowed to ply across the state with full seating capacity, but only 20 people would be allowed to attend funeral/cremation and wedding functions, it says. All competitive, recruitment and university examinations/sports trials will be permitted.

There would be a complete lockdown on Sundays, except on Independence Day.

On Wednesday, Kerala reported over 22,000 fresh cases, taking the TPR to 11.37 per cent. At present, the state contributes to nearly half the country’s daily Covid-19 caseload.

Neighbouring Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have, meanwhile, made negative RT-PCR certificates mandatory to enter their boundaries. Karnataka has virtually sealed the state border between Kasaragod in Kerala and Karnataka’s Mangaluru, even preventing daily commuters.

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