Kerala's TPR-based curbs on public activity unscientific: Experts

Kerala lockdown
Police shuts down Sakthan Market in Thrissur. File photo

Thiruvananthapuram: Of late Kerala has been persisting with weekend lockdowns rather than prolonged continuous shutdowns in a bid to arrest the spread of COVID-19. However, public have begun to express their frustration and anger at the myriads curbs that are still in force even on weekdays. Ironically, Kerala's efforts to eliminate the pandemic or even considerably reduce the number of infected persons are fizzling out even as several other states are reporting negligible Test Positivity Rate (TPR) and significantly low number of fresh cases.

Enforcing weekend lockdown and imposing curbs on the operations of business establishments will not significantly help in containing the virus spread, according to the assessment of health experts.

The doctors at the State Directorate of Health Services, who collect and study data from the primary health centres onwards, are also of the same opinion. They have pointed out in several meetings that decisions based on TPR are not scientific.

There have been instances where one side of a road has high number of infected people and declared as ‘D’ category where a triple lockdown ensues, while the opposite side has been notified as ‘A’ category with curbs considerably eased. The experts have attributed such anomalies to the disparity in the level of testing.

But the government's stand is that it is not ready to revise the existing norms on limiting public activities or announce relaxations.

Social distancing important

Dr A V Jayakrishnan, who is the Chairman of the COVID-19 vaccine committee of the Indian Medical Association's Kerala chapter, said that it was not particularly effective to shut business establishments on certain days.

Instead, the number of people who can be permitted entry should be fixed based on the TPR of the area of the establishments, Dr Jayakrishnan reasoned.

Rather than preventing the public from stepping out, it is the government's duty to ensure social distancing. If 20 people attend a wedding in a small hall inside the house, there is the risk of disease spread. Therefore, the number of attendees should be determined based on the space at the venue of the ceremony, he opined.

Weekend shutdown increases the rush

Health expert Dr N M Arun pointed out that the practice of shutting down shops on select days in a week has been implemented only in Kerala and nowhere else in the world. As the lockdown is enforced during the weekend, the crowding increases during Mondays and Fridays. This paves way for further spread.

The closure of the government offices has also come under heavy criticism. Health experts, police and elected representatives are actively involved in preventive measures. But the services of the government employees, who have received both doses of the vaccine, are not available. As the offices are not functioning, all sections of the public, including workers and farmers, are facing hassles.

Doctors suggest that the offices should function in two shifts of 8am to 2pm and 2pm to 6pm.

Covid review meet today

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will chair a high-level meeting at 6pm on Friday to review the COVID-19 situation and the lockdown curbs. Despite strong demands for lifting lockdown curbs, the government has issued an order that the current restrictions, including the complete shutdown on weekends, will continue.

On Thursday Kerala reported 22,064 new COVID-19 cases and 128 deaths on account of the disease. The former figures are nearly half of the total cases in the country. 

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