As COVID-19 cases rise, Kerala put under lockdown

Labourers, unaware of the cancellation of long-distance trains, reaching the Olavakode railway junction,

Labourers, unaware of the cancellation of long-distance trains, reaching the Olavakode railway junction,   | Photo Credit: K,K.Mustafah

Borders sealed, inter-district travel banned

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday put Kerala on lockdown until March 31 following a spike in the COVID-19 caseload.

The State will seal its borders and prevent inter-district travel. It has halted KSRTC and private bus services. Autorickshaws and taxis could ferry one person at a time. There is no restriction on the use of private vehicles.

However, the government urged people to work from home and remain indoors as far as possible. They should travel only if necessary and that too minimally.

The government has empowered district Collectors to prevent more than five persons from assembling in public if required.

In Kasaragod, the epicentre of the outbreak in Kerala, Mr. Vijayan said the police would arrest any person who ventured out of their homes without a pressing reason. The district is on a total shutdown since Saturday following an uptick in COVID-19 infections.

Mr. Vijayan said people in Kasaragod should venture out of their homes only in the event of a dire emergency or to procure essentials.

He suspended most non-essential services and said only vital business should remain open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. In Kasaragod the timings are between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Essential services

The services deemed essential by the government included medical shops, provision and grocery stores, milk, vegetable and fruit stores, fuel pumps, cooking gas suppliers, restaurants with takeout or delivery services, delivery of newspapers and liquor outlets.

(The government has banned the sale of liquor only in Kasaragod).

The Chief Minister said the government could not ignore social realities and the dangers posed by a total clampdown on liquor. The government would not allow people to socialise inside bars but would permit such businesses to operate takeaway counters to mitigate the rush at Bevco outlets.

Mr. Vijayan said Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh had included “beverages” in the list of essential items when he locked down his State to contain the outbreak. Mr. Vijayan said he had ordered Bevco to impose social distancing norms at its outlets and premium counters strictly. “There was a heavy rush for buying liquor on Monday due to the close down on Sunday,” he noted.

The Chief Minister said the government was weighing how to reduce queues at liquor outlets as part of its measure to curb the contagion.

The government would set up special camps to provide for migrant labourers who had lost work and wages due to the outbreak. It would strictly monitor persons in isolation, and the police would track their cellphone locations to know if they had jumped quarantine.

There would be no interruption in power or water supply and other essential government services. Only crucial staff need to turn up at government offices. Others should remain on standby at their homes for rapid deployment when required.

The government asked the Reserve Bank of India to sanitise currency notes and coins in widespread circulation.

Mr. Vijayan said agents of micro-financing agencies should desist from collecting debts and bothering defaulters till June.

He had met with traders and urged them to ensure sufficient stocks and not to hike prices or hoard supplies.

The Chief Minister also suggested that traders create online platforms collectively to receive orders from the public and engage persons with personal protective gear and vehicles to deliver the goods to customers at their homes.

He said banks could transact business only till 2 p.m. The government reckoned dissemination of news an essential service. He would confer with heads of media institutions on Tuesday.

He said without forceful intervention, the epidemic situation could worsen and overwhelm the State’s finite health resources. The government was marching in lockstep with the Centre and the people to prevent the community spread of the disease. “The government is in front of you as a shield,” he added.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 4:11:10 AM |

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