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Kerala tightens curbs to avoid crowding ahead of Onam

Our Bureau Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on August 11, 2021

Centre warns States against potential superspreader events

Kerala has further tightened Covid-19 containment protocols ahead of the Onam festival latching on to a directive from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) that alerted State governments about the need to prevent potential mass gathering events during upcoming festivals.

The announcement came late on Tuesday evening when the test positivity rate (TPR) in the State threatened to breach 16 per cent in a new spurt of infections with the Onam festival barely two weeks away. Doctors have said the period ahead of Onam and after would bear close watching.

Local restrictions called for

The new protocols will apply not just to Onam but other festivals such as like Muharram, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi and Durga Pooja with any related mass gathering potentially turning into super spreader events, causing spike in Covid-19 cases, the MoHFW directive had said. The directive from the Centre went on to advise the State governments to actively consider imposition of local restrictions in public observation of these festivals and curb mass gatherings to ensure that no such events occur, a separate order issued late on Tuesday by the Chief Secretary, Kerala, said.

In his capacity as Chairman of the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority, he proceeded to reiterate that ‘no public observation of festivals or mass gatherings will be permitted during the above-mentioned festivals in the state of Kerala,’ which will be enforced strictly from Thursday.

Lower WIPR threshold

Accordingly, special intensified stringent lockdown restrictions will be enforced in panchayats or urban wards with critical spread, wherein the Weekly Infection Population Ratio (WIPR) is above eight. The WIPR replaces test positivity rate (TPR) as benchmark for determining closure of affected areas.

Micro-containment and testing shall be intensified in areas where new cases are on the rise. Effective from August 15, for Sabarimala pilgrimage and darshan, a maximum of 15,000 devotees per day will be permitted and virtual queue registration will continue for crowd management.

Also read: Next fortnight crucial for Kerala, says KIMSHEALTH consultant

The order said that ‘all persons’ are now allowed to undertake certain essential activities. It clarified that those who are yet to receive Covid-19 vaccination or cannot take the vaccine due to drug allergy or other ailments, can move out of their homes for essential activities like purchase of food items, including grocery, milk, meat and fish if there are no other persons in the household. If they are required to visit shops, they shall be given priority service by the traders. Traders and local self-government institutions concerned shall give special attention to these categories of persons and ensure home delivery of essential items.

Meanwhile, separately, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, hinted that the threshold WIPR for invoking lockdown in areas with high transmission has been brought down from 10 or above to eight or above. He told this at a routine meeting of the State's high-level task force on Covid on Tuesday evening.

In districts with a WIPR of 14 per cent or above, the number of micro-containment zones will be increased by 50 per cent. When Sabarimala opens for rituals on August 15, devotees having taken both doses of vaccine, or have an RT-PCR negative certificate issued within the previous 72 hours, will be allowed to have darshan through the virtual queue, the Chief Minister said.

Rationalising RT-PCR fees

Elaborating on restrictions for Onam, he said that activities on beaches will be monitored. Those who carry licenses would alone be allowed to set up wayside shops.

The State government would soon come out with proper directives to rationalise rates for RT-PCR tests at airports for the benefit of those going abroad. Arrangements have been made to procure 20 lakh doses of vaccine for distribution through private hospitals, the Chief Minister said..

5.11 lakh doses of vaccine arrive

Meanwhile, Health Minister Veena George, said that the State has received 5.11 lakh doses of vaccine by Tuesday night. Of these, 2,91,080 are Covishield and 2,20,000 are Covaxin.

On Tuesday, only 95,308 persons could be vaccinated across government-run booths and 333 private sector booths. Till date, 2,21,94,304 persons have been administered the first or second doses in the State. Of these, 1,57,52,365 are first doses (44.88 per cent of the State's estimated 2021 population) and 64,41,939 second doses (18.35 per cent), the Health Minister added.

Published on August 11, 2021

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