COVID-19 cases rising in rural Kerala, curbs to be tightened in three districts: CM

COVID-19 in Kerala
A police officer advising a two-wheeler rider to use double masks during a vehicle check at Pathanamthitta's Azhoor. Photo: Aravind Venugopal

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday expressed concern over the rising cases of COVID-19 in the rural areas of Kerala.

During his sunset briefing, the CM said there are 72 panchayats in the state with a test positivity rate of over 50 per cent, and 19 of them are in Ernakulam district. It's above 30 per cent in 300 panchayats.

"There are 57 panchayats with 500 to 2,000 active cases. This is very serious and shows the gravity of the situation. The only way out is to adhere to the lockdown norms and not to venture outside homes,” he said.

“The number of confirmed cases continues to be high in Kannur, Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam districts,” he added. He said stronger preventive measures would be taken in these districts. In other districts, it is gradually declining, Vijayan added.

6 lakh active Covid cases likely by end of week

The CM said the situation in the state continues to be grave as the average test positivity rate (TPR) in the past three days stands at 26.5 per cent and adherence to lockdown norms is the only way out, as the state expects the total number of active cases to touch six lakh by end of the week.

"The first lockdown that we had last year was a preventive one and today it is an emergency lockdown as the local spread is rampant and our prime concern is to keep the death rate at the lowest," he said.

On Monday, 27,487 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Kerala from 99,748 sample tests, taking the total active cases in the state to 4,19,726.

Vijayan noted that within an hour of opening the online facility for e-passes by the state Police Department, more than one lakh applications surfaced. "This attitude is not good as the whole purpose of the lockdown will be defeated," he said.

The CM also said that a decision has been taken to appoint more medical professionals with immediate effect and all those who have passed out will be appointed on a contract basis. More treatment facilities will be opened across the state, he added.

He asserted that the Centre has allowed sanction for opening three new oxygen plants and the state government is speaking to start-up companies to see how quickly they can get pulse oximeters which is currently in short supply.

"The first batch of 3.5 lakh doses of vaccines ordered by the state government has arrived early in the day and will be given to those in the age-group of 18 to 45... preference will be given to those with co-morbidities and all frontline workers including journalists will get preference," added Vijayan.

He said on Monday a detailed letter was written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the steps taken by the state government to tackle Covid, under the protocols of the Centre and said it has also been informed that the state will not be able to supply oxygen to other states, as the stock depleted and also on account of the huge surge in the cases.

Vijayan also said the police collected Rs 34.50 lakh by way of fines after 14,000 cases were registered in the day from those who failed to wear masks and/or violated social distancing norms.

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