Thiruvananthapuram: The health department has said that no further relaxations, including the reopening of educational institutions, should be allowed before a significant decline in the COVID-19 cases in the state.
Also, Kerala need not implement the relaxations announced by the Centre, such as more people at the theatres. The health department shared these suggestions during a meet held the other day in the presence of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The department also recommended to strictly implement the restrictions in the COVID clusters and containment zones. Also, strict adherence to restrictions such as public vehicles to ply with only 50 per cent seating capacity, 50 per cent attendance in offices, hotels to function till only 7pm, limit dine-in to 50 per cent capacity at hotels and not to open theatres. The department pointed out serious laxity in implementation though these restrictions are in place.
Photos of large number of people arriving at tourist places at the same time were also shown during the meet. The district medical officers have been asked to control the crowd in coordination with the Collectors. Also, laxity in contact tracing also led to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The COVID-19 numbers after curbs were eased at various stages were also included in the report. The test positivity rate is above 9 per cent in scenarios with increased crowds such as Onam, Deepavali, Christmas, offices functioning with 100 per cent attendance, resuming classes 10 and 12, and local body polls. The positivity rate crossed 10 per cent the other days. When 6282 people tested positive on Saturday, the test positivity rate is at 10.51 per cent.
The presence of virus with higher transmission rate was confirmed in Kerala four months ago but the state suffered a setback as enough precautionary measures were not taken.
Even the chief minister's directives such as a maximum of 100 people for public events could not be properly implemented.
Though the government had decided to carry out 75,000 RT-PCR tests daily, this would not be implemented immediately. The decision was taken to carry out the more accurate RT-PCR tests in the wake of the increasing COVID-19 cases.
However, there are not enough labs for this and it would take time to upgrade the facilities at the existing ones.
The CM had said the other day that 1 lakh tests would be held in a day, and of which, 75 per cent would be RT-PCR.
The government decided to increase the number of RT-PCR test after severe criticisms were raised over the state's dependency on the less-accurate antigen tests. Antigen tests are carried out using kits and do not need the facilities at labs. However, RT-PCR tests need lab facilities.
Forty per cent of the COVID-19 tests in Kerala are held at private hospitals and labs. Though 60,000 tests are held daily in the state, only 16,000 of these are RT-PCR.
There are 24 labs in the government sector and 47 labs in the private sector for RT-PCR testing. To carry out 75,000 tests daily after upgrading the facilities at the government labs is not immediately possible. Though more private labs are expected to come up, this cannot be stipulated upon.
The CM had also said on October 7 that RT-PCR tests would be conducted for those testing negative in antigen tests. But this was not implemented either.