Kerala government has told the Supreme Court that it is vigorously vaccinating people against COVID-19 and is expected to inoculate at least 60 per cent of its population within two or three months. In an affidavit filed in the apex court in response to an application raising issue of relaxations granted by Kerala in view of Bakrid festival, the state said it has vaccinated 45 per cent of its 18+ population with at least one dose and 18 per cent have been vaccinated with two doses.
It said state has taken a scientific and pragmatic approach for conceiving and implementing various measures for curbing the spread of pandemic and the strategy is based on a rational balance of life and livelihood. The affidavit said chairman of expert group of medical officers had informed the crisis management group meeting that more relaxations can be extended to lockdown as the state is “unlikely to face a strong third wave of the pandemic due to the fast and systematic vaccination in the state.” However, a bench of Justices R F Nariman and B R Gavai on Tuesday termed wholly uncalled for the state’s relaxations for Bakrid in areas with a high Covid positivity rate and said giving in to pressure from traders discloses a sorry state of affairs.
The bench referred to a paragraph in the affidavit and said it disclosed that the state has given in to associations of traders, which represented that they have stocked up goods for the purpose of Bakrid. What is extremely alarming is the fact that in Category D where infection rates are the highest, a full day of relaxation has been granted, the bench said.
In its affidavit filed on Monday, the state has said that curbs and resultant economic slowdown have put the population in a lot of misery. Even though the state government has taken all possible steps to alleviate the same, the people have been frustrated by the curbs which have been in vogue for more than three months,” it said. Giving details of steps taken to deal with the pandemic, the affidavit said test positivity rate (TPR) which had reached around 30 per cent during peak of second wave has come down to around 10 per cent now.
It said that along with implementation of restrictions, the state is vigorously vaccinating the people. “It is submitted that state has vaccinated 45 per cent of its 18+ population with at least one dose and 18 per cent have been vaccinated with two doses. Vaccine waste is negative in the state and the state has used more vaccines than allocated to it by systematically using the wastage portion also, it said. The state is expected to vaccinate at least 60 per cent of its population within two or three months in the present phase, subject to availability of sufficient number of vaccines,” it said.
“The traders were expecting that the Bakrid sales will alleviate their misery to a certain extent. They have stocked up the goods for this purpose much early. The organisation of traders started to agitate against the stringent curbs implemented in the LSGIs (local self government institutions) and declared that they will open shops all over the state flouting the regulations,” it said. It said opposition political parties also raised the traders’ issue in public domain and demanded more relaxations in curbs to give some respite to traders and to allow some economic activities in the state.
“The chief minister held discussion with the organisations and heard their demands on July 16, 2021. The traders assured that the opening of shops will be strictly following Covid protocols and they are ready to follow the additional regulations ordered by the state, if any,” it said. The affidavit said their demand was put forth before crisis management group meeting and with the concurrence of chairman of expert group, it was decided to give some relaxations for opening shops for three days prior to Bakrid.
“Only one day of relaxation is allowed in areas where the TPR (test positivity rate) is above 15 per cent,” it said, adding, “It has been specifically ordered that as far as possible, the persons visiting shops and other establishments may belong to those with at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine and follow strict Covid protocols.” “The chief minister has also appealed to the people via his press briefing that only those who have taken at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine alone may visit the shops during these days,” it said. It said since lockdown cannot be extended indefinitely considering the repercussions on livelihoods of people, the state is working on a containment strategy that focuses specifically on areas with high spread of Covid-19 allowing economic activity to the extent possible.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had announced the concessions at a press conference on July 17. In view of Bakrid (Eid-ul-Azha) being celebrated on July 21, textiles, footwear shops, jewellery, fancy stores, shops selling home appliances and electronic items, all types of repairing shops and shops selling essential items shall be allowed to open on July 18-20 from 7 AM to 8 PM in category A, B and C areas, he had said.
In D category areas, these shops can function only on July 19, he had said. Areas with a TPR of less than five per cent were included in category A, those with 5 to 10 per cent were in category B, areas with 10 to 15 per cent in category C and those above 15 per cent were in category D.