Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan

Kerala declared a state-wide lockdown and announced a series of measures to contain coronavirus from spreading as 28 new cases were reported for the day. Of these 19 are in Kasargod and as many of 25 of the total 28 have a travel history to Dubai or other destinations.

The state government had earlier taken the stand that a complete lockdown was warranted only in Kasargod, where people have been showing reluctance to follow strict guidelines. But with the risk of the community-level spread of the virus becoming more serious and in view of the strict central stand against any relaxation, the government decided to extend the lockdown to the entire state.

To prevent further spread of the disease, all public transport will remain suspended and only shops selling essential goods will be allowed to remain open, along with petrol pumps and other fuel facilities. Restrictions have also been placed on the timings of the shops.

All bars in the state will remain closed until further orders, but the government outlets and other shops selling beverages, including foreign liquor, will be allowed, subject to strict adherence to social distancing requirements and other guidelines.

There have been strong calls to cover the liquor vendors under the lockdown, but the state government has cited the case of Punjab where beverages have been included as an essential supply. The decision to close down the bars would, therefore, partly meet the demand for a crack down on drinking in view of the virus attack.

Essential supplies include, among others, grocery, milk, medicines and food. Restaurants will be open, but there will be only parcel service and home delivery. Those under isolation and their families would be provided food by the local authorities in deserving cases. The local bodies have also been entrusted the task of monitoring people under their jurisdiction.

Also tags will be used to keep track of people under observation, but without impinging on their privacy. Anyone under isolation found outside would be arrested and sent to quarantine centres, which have since been renamed as care centres to help remove the social stigma attached to such facilities.

Private vehicles will be allowed on the road for unavoidable work. But strict action, including arrests, would be taken against people venturing out without adequate justification. Administration and police officials have been asked to prevent people from roaming around.

This is also in line with the central government guidelines, which are drawn up on the basis of the presumption that this is the best way to prevent community infection of the disease.

The government is also taking up with the banks the need to sanitise currency notes and coins, which are believed to be major carriers of the virus. People have been asked to make digital transactions as far as possible.

In view of the increasing number of cases, dedicated coronavirus hospitals will be set up in every state to ensure timely attention to the patients. Health workers and other staff engaged in the fight against the disease will be provided accommodation near these hospitals, along with food.

The health authorities have also extended the system of quarantine to all people coming from other states as well. Earlier, this was applicable to only people landing at the airports at the end of their overseas trips. The new move makes 14-day observation mandatory for all those crossing the state’s borders, which have been sealed on all sides.

The chief minister announced that special camps would be put up to accommodate migrant labourers from other states, most of whom have lost jobs due to the virus attack and are in a dire situation. The government feels that these workers, stranded as they are due to the cancellation of trains and inter-state buses, need to be provided food and shelter until the situation improves.

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Free Press Journal