The Kerala government has decided to impose a night curfew in the state to contain the spread of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The night curfew will be effective from December 30 (Thursday) to January 2 (Sunday). Strict restrictions will be in place from 10 pm to 5 am on those days. The major aim of the restrictions is to limit crowding in connection with the New Year celebrations. The decision was taken at a meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, to review the COVID-19 situation in the state.
In the meeting, it was decided that New Year's celebrations would not be allowed after 10 PM on December 31 and the seating capacity in bars, clubs, hotels, restaurants and eateries will remain at 50 per cent, a press release said.
During the curfew days, shops should close at 10 pm. Crowding and unnecessary journeys will not be allowed. Police checks will be stricter.
It was also decided in the meeting that District Collectors will deploy sectoral magistrates with adequate support from police officers in areas such as beaches, shopping malls and public parks where large crowds are likely to gather for the New Year celebrations, it said.
Moreover, areas where COVID-19 was spreading should be declared as containment zones and restrictions should be tightened there, the chief minister directed at the meeting.
Directions were issued by the chief minister to the Health Department to take steps to vaccinate the deserving persons with booster shots from January 3 and to distribute, free of cost, to the public ayurvedic or homeopathic medicines which would help to enhance their immunity, the release said.
Vijayan also directed that measures against the Omicron variant be intensified in view of its numbers rising to 57 in the state.
Since the new variant spreads three to five times faster than the Delta version of COVID-19, Omicron was likely to increase the number of coronavirus cases leading to a third wave, he said and added that measures were being taken to deal with it.
Highlighting the steps being taken by the government to deal with a third wave, the CM, in the release, said that more and more medicines, beds and syringes were being procured and district collectors have been directed to ensure that all oxygen-producing hospitals increase their production and storage of oxygen in view of the possibility of an increase in the number of COVID-19 victims by the end of January 2022.
The district collectors were also directed to implement more genetic sequencing tests in Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam districts where the number of Omicron patients are high, the release said.
Many other states, including Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, have already imposed curfews and restrictions in view of the rising number of Omicron cases.
As on Sunday, Kerala has recorded 57 Omicron cases of COVID-19. The state reported 19 fresh cases on Sunday.