Kerala to get some measure of respite from protracted lockdown

The State government does not expect a complete return to ‘business as usual’, say sources.  

Kerala may soon get some respite from an unexpectedly extended COVID-19 lockdown season that commenced on May 8.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is chairing a high-level meeting on easing of restrictions at 3.30 p.m. on Tuesday. Preliminary inter-departmental discussions are already on at the government Secretariat and State Police Headquarters level.

An official privy to the deliberations said a cautious and gradual winding down of curbs on retail, mobility, public transport, inter-district travel, commerce, leisure and production was on the cards. The relaxations could kick in from June 18 or earlier.

He said Kerala’s epidemic managers had not discounted the possibility of a third wave catalysed by more virulent versions of the fast-mutating virus. Nevertheless, he said Kerala’s lockdown strategy had changed for good. For one, it would no more be uniform or Statewide.

Local bodies would have a more significant say in shutting down wards, villages, municipalities, corporations or districts as the pandemic situation demanded. The government would allow a measure of normalcy outside the epidemic hotspots, he said.

Sources said the government did not expect a complete return to “business as usual” until Kerala achieved the optimal level of immunisation against the virus. Schools and colleges would likely to remain closed. So would cinema halls, shopping malls, stadiums, sports complexes, swimming pools, fitness centres, swimming pools, football, and cricketing turfs.

He said the government might consider opening beaches, parks, and walking circuits for limited hours in the morning and evening. The partial unlocking of markets with half the number of shops allowed to open on a given day was on the table.

Public transport buses might be allowed to ply with not more than 50% of the permitted seating capacity. Officials also proposed that the government allowed autorickshaws to operate with not more than two passengers at any given time.

The administration was yet to decide on allowing religious places to open to admit worshippers. The government might delay the resumption of the sale of legal alcohol till the test positivity rate plummeted further, given the fear that buyers could swamp liquor stores and ruin pandemic control.

Officials said the ban on indoor dining and serving of liquor was likely to continue. Government offices would open with 50% of the staff reporting for work on alternate days.

The government would encourage home delivery of food and provisions to expand the gig economy further to benefit unemployed youth. They said the government might allow hairdressing salons to open on certain days, along with workshops and vehicle service centres.

The easing of restrictions might be slower in Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad and Malappuram district, given the relatively high test positivity rate (15% compared to the State average of 12.7%).

Officials said there were also pockets where the TPR was above 35%. The spread seemed to be now more centred around households.

Hence, the government was unlikely to permit social gatherings. It had fixed a minimum attendance of 50 persons for marriages and 20 for funerals. The restriction was likely to continue.

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 8:17:42 AM |

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