Thiruvananthapuram: A high-power committee chaired by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday decided to impose certain restrictions in the state rather than going for a complete lockdown.
"We are not looking at a total lockdown in weekends, but there will be strict restrictions, especially in districts where the Test Positivity Rate (TPR) is high," he said during a press conference here.
The chief minister urged people to be more careful and to stay indoors during the weekend and not to venture out unless it is unavoidable.
He said the government has increased and improved the 'surge capacity' (to handle excess cases) of the health system and spelt out a series of measures to check spread of the virus, including setting up a COVID First Line Treatment Centre in each taluk.
Kerala reported the highest single day surge of COVID-19 cases on Wednesday with 22,414 infections, including 105 health workers, while the toll touched 5,000 with 22 deaths. The previous high was on April 20 with 19,577 cases. With the new cases, the number of active cases in the state reached 1,35,631.
With the surge at an all-time high, a night curfew was imposed from Tuesday onwards for the next two weeks. Vehicle movement will not be allowed from 9pm to 5am and all shops including malls and movie halls will have to close down by 7:30pm.
The authorities also decided to postpone University examinations for the time being, but Class 10 and 12 examinations of the state syllabus will be held as per schedule.
The chief minister dismissed a query on whether the surge in cases was due to crowds during campaigning in the run up to the April 6 assembly polls and pointed out that no elections were held in Maharashtra, Delhi or Uttar Pradesh, which had all witnessed a record spike in cases.
"There were no election in these states. But there are reports of new strains of the virus from Maharashtra and Delhi. Such cases have not been found in Kerala yet. We are yet to receive the detailed test reports. We need to be careful. That's why we have made the RT-PCR test mandatory," he said.
Here are the new rules to be imposed on Saturday and Sunday:
• All government offices, including banks and public sector undertakings, will be given a holiday on April 24 (Saturday). On April 24 and 25, only emergency services will function in the state.
• Higher secondary exams will be conducted as scheduled.
• Functions which had been decided earlier like marriages and house warming sessions can be held on the days fixed, but with the stipulated number of 75 attendees.
• Shops selling essential supplies can open on weekend. No dine-in at restaurants. Take away counters in restaurants can function as per COVID protocol.
• No restrictions on long-distance travel by bus, train or flights. Public transportation will be allowed. Private vehicle carrying passengers from or to bus, train stations or airports can ply on the roads. But necessary documents should be shown to police if asked.
Here are other decisions taken in the high-level meeting:
• Only half of the staff will be deployed at government offices on working days. 'Work from home' facility has been given to them on a rotational basis. Private sector firms have also been instructed to implement 'work from home' method.
• An online booking facility will be arranged for vaccination in order to control the crowd at the centres. Spot registration will not be available from now on.
• All taluks will have at least one COVID-19 First-Line Treatment Centre (CFLTC). In areas with more that 35 per cent TPR, interventions on a war footing will be made.
• The fines for protocol violation have been raised from the present minimum of Rs 200 to Rs 500 and the maximum fines has also been raised from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000.
• Various temples in the state have also decided to restrict the entry of devotees.
• All educational institutions, including tuition centres, will remain closed but online classes can be held.
• Beaches, parks, bus stations, airports and markets should function only as per strict health protocol.
• Night curfew would continue, but without affecting food distribution during the Ramzan season.
• Guest workers will also be vaccinated wherever they are located. If they are short of work due to restrictions, the local self bodies will provide them food.
State prepared for any emergency
Dwelling more on the surge capacity, the chief minister said currently only 901 Intensive Care Unit beds out of the total of 9,735 in the state, including in the government and private sector, were being used.
"Only 50 per cent of ICU beds in the government sector are occupied now. Out of the total of 3,776 ventilators in the state, only 277 are occupied by COVID patients," Vijayan said.
On the oxygen requirements, he said the state had enough as it was producing 219.22 metric tonnes a day against the 74.25 metric tonnes a day needed.
He said Local Self Government bodies will play an important role in containing the spread of the virus, as they did in the first phase of COVID-19 last year.
"LSGs will undertake the responsibility of providing food for the nuclear families in their areas in case they are affected by the pandemic," he said.
He said government would convene a meeting of private hospitals, after which an all-party-meet will also be held to discuss and reduce celebrations once the election results are announced on May 2.