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Tripura HC cites Kerala Covid spike, asks govt to be vigilant during festivals

“The experience in the state of Kerala during Onam was alarming because despite their management the state saw sudden spike in case which gives us certain amount of anxiety”, the Court has observed.

Written by Debraj Deb | Agartala | October 13, 2020 8:59:07 pm
coronavirus india, social distancing, tripura covid 19 cases, coronavirus news Tripura, latest news, COVID-19 news, indian expressA mural asking citizens to stay home, stay safe on the streets of Tripura (File)

Even as Tripura revised it Durga Puja guidelines twice in last one month, the High Court Tuesday asked the government to be vigilant and hold massive awareness campaign to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus during the festive days.

In an order, a division bench of the Tripura High Court comprising Chief Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice Subhashish Talapatra cited the Onam festival in Kerala and said the state had seen a sudden surge in COVID cases soon after the festival despite their efforts to manage the situation.

“The experience in the state of Kerala during Onam was alarming because despite their management the state saw sudden spike in case which gives us certain amount of anxiety”, the Court has observed.

Citing reports of COVID positivity furnished by the state government, the Court has observed that number of active cases came down from 214 to 109 between October 07 and 11, and said there is a steady drop in the positivity rate, particularly from October 9, 2020 onwards. While, on October 7 the positivity rate was more than 10%, it dropped to five percent on October 11, the Court said.

However, the Court has cautioned that these figures should not lull the government into overconfidence because the figures of reducing positivity rate are available only for three days.

“This period is too short to discern a systematic trend. The reasons can be many. The drop may be sporadic, not representing the true cross section on account of sampling errors. In any case we need to bring down the positivity rate further and cannot relax and rejoice the positivity rate of 5% of the tested people. It would be a serious error to get euphoric on the basis of these figures. There is no scope for relaxing or letting our guards down”, the Court order reads.

Urging the government not to rely on mere announcement of restrictions, the High Court today said medical experts have predicted a possible spike for COVID-19 during winter and said a constant dialogue should be undertaken with principal stakeholders of the Puja like clubs, pandal organizers, leading members of the communities and general public at large along with constant vigil.

The Court has also asked the media to play a positive role and act as a catalyst to spread government guidelines regarding Puja, whilst stating that the press has the onerous duty to publish news, which may be sometimes critical of the government. The Court’s statement comes in the midst of comments from the state government about misreporting in media about Tripura’s COVID management.

Later this evening, Law minister Ratan Lal Nath said his government is working on a formula to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“We are happy that the High Court took suo motto case on a very important matter. We shall take appropriate action to increase COVID awareness campaign prior to the Durga puja and contain spread of the disease as advised by the High Court. We shall even invite opposition party leaders too on the issue…. even media can advice us and we would hear it”, the minister said.

The first Durga Puja guidelines were issued in Tripura on September 4, when the government instructed puja organizers to collect subscriptions through online mode, reduce number of puja pandals through mutual consultation, avoid narrow entrance and exit systems in pandals, allow a maximum of 5-10 people to visit idols at a time among others.

The revised guidelines, issued 37 days later, mandated COVID-19 tests of puja organizers, volunteers and priests in order to contain spread of the virus.

According to the revised rules, pandals have also been asked to be kept open from all sides in case of any emergency exist requirement, seal all roofs.

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