(Photo by Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP)

Thiruvananthapuram: Twelve more new cases of Covid-19 infections were reported in Kerala on Saturday, taking the total number of cases to 52, indicating a steady increase in the spread of the disease.

Of the new cases, 6 are in Kasargod district and three each in Kannur and Ernakulam districts. All the affected are persons coming from the Gulf countries.

This makes the number of cases reported over the past two days to 24, which is almost equal to the total number of cases testing positive since the first victim with confirmed incidence was reported in February.

With signs of the virus spreading to more areas in the northern part of Kerala, the near lock-down conditions enforced in Kasargod since Friday have been extended to the rest of the state. All temples, mosques and churches have been virtually closed, with no access to devotees, although prayers and rituals would carry on. All events with public participation stand cancelled until further orders.

Religious and community leaderships have volunteered to follow the state government guidelines and the administrative and spiritual heads of various factions of the Church have issued circulars advising their establishments to stop all services that involve congregation of people. While most places of worships have by and large followed the instructions, there have been stray incidents of crowds gathering for services and events at a few churches and temples. Members of the management committees responsible for the violation have been arrested and cases registered against them.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told newsmen at his daily media briefing that the state government has been forced to toughen its stand on compliance in the wake of instances of violations. The approach so far has been to appeal to the public to voluntarily follow the guidelines, but henceforth anyone flouting the protocol would be brought to book.

The chief minister warned that the government might be forced to enforce strict adherence to the guidelines, including prohibitory orders, in the event of ‘irresponsible behaviour’ by anyone. He cited the spread of the virus in Kasargod as a result of one person’s irresponsibility, whose case continues to remain mysterious as he appeared to follow a hectic schedule of engagements.

Pinarayi Vijayan described his case as curious and said this has necessitated more investigations. The district collected has reported that the man was not cooperating with the authorities in preparing his ‘route map’ to identify and track down all those who may have come into contact with him.

He said that district police superintendents have been instructed to enforce the guidelines strictly and take stern action against anyone found flouting the government’s instructions.  Even SPs not in charge of law and order have been asked to help.

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