COVID-19: Active cases in Kerala rise to 105; CM clamps further restrictions

COVID-19 cases cross 100 in Kerala, 14 more test positive on Tuesday
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan addressing mediapersons at Thiruvananthapuram.
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After three days of consistent and rapid increase, from 12 to 15 to 28 in the last three days, the number of samples that tested positive for the novel coronavirus rather than increasing came down to 14. Kasaragod - 6, Kozhikode - 2, Malappuram, Palakkad, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thiruvananthapuram and Alappuzha - one each.

But, in what could be a sign of things to come, one of the confirmed samples belonged to a health worker.

The rate of spread of the infection might have slowed a bit but the number of infected in Kerala has crossed the danger mark of 100. Now, active COVID-19 cases in Kerala stands at 105. If the four cases that had recovered – the first three patients from Wuhan and recently a Kannur resident who recovered a day ago - are also taken into account, the total number of confirmed cases will be 109, the highest in the country.

Nine of the 14 found infected on Tuesday had come from the Gulf; eight from Dubai and one from Qatar. One had arrived from the United Kingdom. The rest are primary contacts. The absence of secondary infection is momentary relief because it shows that community transmission has still not begun in Kerala. But Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that Kasaragod was an area of deep concern.

Six of the newly confirmed cases are in Kasaragod, the worst affected district. The number of infected in the district has now shot up to 42.

Special care for Kasaragod

The Chief Minister said he had held an audio conference with the five Kasaragod MLAs (M C Kamaruddin, N A Nellikunnu, K Kunhiraman, E Chandrasekahran and M Rajagopalan) on Tuesday. The decisions taken during the interaction will have to be implemented by the MLAs.

One, a person quarantined in his/her home should be given a separate bath-attached room, and his food and other assistance should be provided by only one person in the house. There should also be adequate stock of masks and sanitisers at the house. If there are no such facilities in the house, then the person will have to be shifted to an isolation facility.

Two, MLAs should hold a meeting with panchayat presidents under their remit and hold discussions about how to go about implementing prevention protocols in the area.

Three, ward-level committees should be asked to identify houses of marginalised groups within their areas, especially the old, differently-abled and daily wagers who would be highly vulnerable in the lockdown, and ensure that they get food and medical supplies without fail.

Four, homeless people who normally sleep in the open, in bus stands or on the roadside or in front of shop windows, should be gathered and brought under single shelter where food will also be provided. The MLAs, in consultation with local body leaders, should identify the people and also the shelters where they could be lodged during the lockdown.

Five, MLAs have also been asked to find buildings - schools or auditoriums - where isolation wards could be set up.

72,460 under observation

As on Tuesday, the total number under observation is 72,460, up from 64,320 yesterday. Of this, 71,994 are quarantined in their homes. However, indicating the intensifying gravity of the virus spread, 466 are now admitted in hospitals across the state. Yesterday, there were 383 in hospitals. On Tuesday alone, 164 were admitted.

Till now 4516 samples were sent for testing. of this, 3331 did not show any trace of the virus.

Travel only if strictly necessary

The Chief Minister laid down the conditions of the lockdown in greater detail, intensifying the controls. On March 23, while declaring the absolute lockdown, he had said private vehicles were allowed provided it had only two occupants including the driver.

On the evening of the first day of the lockdown, after witnessing a larger than anticipated fleet of private vehicles on the state's roads, the Chief Minister said even private vehicles could be used only in case of strict necessity or emergency. "When the lockdown was clamped, it was expected that the people would realise the gravity of the situation and act accordingly. But what we saw today went completely against it," the Chief Minister said during his customary sunset press briefing on Tuesday.

He said that people should not take the opportunity to use private vehicles as an opportunity to indulge in unnecessary travel. Now if anyone wants to go outside in their vehicle, they will have to first fill up an affidavit, which will give details of their travel, and produce it when asked by police who will be conducting regular checks along the road.

The Chief Minister said the vehicle would b allowed to proceed if there is a strict necessity like making arrangements for aged parents living in another area or for getting groceries or in case of emergencies like urgent hospital visits.

Even taxis and autorickshaws can be operated only for unavoidable needs like buying essential goods or for going to hospitals.

He said all routine activities like visiting clubs or libraries or get togethers in the houses of friends should be avoided in this situation. The police have been asked to strictly enforce these directives.

No luxury, only subsistence

He said those providing essential services like people working in grocery shops, pharmacies, or those selling vegetables, or milk or fish or meat or bread would be provided "exemption pass" to open their shops or move about.

He said only those shops that sell essential items would be opened. No shops that satisfy a person's leisure or luxury would be opened. He also clarified that they will remain open from 7 am to 5 pm in all districts except Kasaragod where they will remain open only from 11 am to 5 pm.

The shops that open should also have all preventive measures in place, like hand sanitisers at the entrance. There should be a sanitiser at the counter, too, where the customer could clean his hands after paying the bill. The Chief Minister said people who enter the shop should make sure they keep at last a distance of one metre from each other and quickly leave the place once the shopping is done.

Warning for profiteers

The Chief Minister also warned shops that attempt to hoard or jack up prices of essential commodities. "Some such incidents have come to our notice and this will not be tolerated. Special squads have been formed to monitor the functioning of shops and merciless action would be taken if such tendencies are spotted," he said.

COVID hospitals, and bystanders

He said that when government hospitals were converted into COVID hospitals, other patients would have to be shifted to other places. The Chief Minister ahd announced that Covid hospitals would come up in all the districts.

"In some cases, like maternity hospitals, we would retain the maternity ward even while setting up a COVID unit in the hospital. But in such instances, the bystanders of existing patients will have to move out," the Chief Minister said.

He then called upon members of youth organisations to sign up as volunteers and take up the duties of bystanders in these hospitals.

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