Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reimposed Sunday lockdown in the state on Friday barely two weeks after relaxing it. A day later, the state has also decided to bring back the curfew implemented during the night. With numbers still remaining sky high, the state seems heading towards its third complete shutdown.
Although both Vijayan and state Health Minister Veena George have been vehemently defending the state’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis during the second wave amid alarms raised by the Centre over the continuing surge in cases, they have attributed the spike to relaxations.
“Since the relaxations in lockdown, there has been surge in cases. It was further increased after Onam," Vijayan said on Saturday while spekaing to the media as he announced the night curbs.
Fresh Covid-19 cases crossed the 30,000 mark for the fourth consecutive day in the state on Saturday. Since July 27, when restrictions were relaxed in the state for a few days on account of two festivals, the state has been logging more than or close to 20,000 case almost every day.
Kerala has reported an average of 13,500 cases per day in July and almost 19,500 daily cases in August. It also remains one of the top contributors in terms of daily cases and is accounting for more than half of the active Covid cases in the country at present.
Kerala Health Minister Veena George, who reviewed the state’s Covid-19 situation earlier this week after the ‘Onam surge’, has also blamed the violation of home quarantine directives for the worsening situation and cautioned against the increased indoor transmission of coronavirus at homes.
George has repeatedly advised those placed under home quarantine not to step out of their room and asked all members of the house to wear masks to avoid risk of indoor transmission.She also released a set of directives to be followed by the people to fight the disease.
The steady rise in cases had seen Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla review the situation with top officials and the steps taken to contain the alarming graph of the virus in the state. The central government had said that the southern state is the only one reporting over one lakh active Covid-19 cases, while four states have 10,000 to one lakh active cases and 31, less than 10,000 active cases.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, who visited Kerala on August 16, announced a special package of Rs 267.35 crore for the southern state to strengthen its health infrastructure.
The central government has warned the state goverment that the months of September and October will be crucial in pandemic management and cautioned that festivals should be celebrated in accordance with Covid-19-appropriate behaviour.
“During a pandemic the most important factor is to reduce the deaths. In Kerala, the mortality rate is 0.51 per cent whereas the national mortality rate is 1.34 per cent," Vijayan said on Saturday.
Lockdown last or only resort?
Maharashtra, which is close on the heels of Kerala when it comes to infections and is in the same dock with the Centre, was the first state to impose a total lockdown for the second time in April since the pandemic began. The strict curbs resulted in numbers declining giving the authorities much respite.
The Centre too has suggested strict measures and a cautious relaxation as the threat of the third wave is looming large. Experts have warned that a fresh wave of infections - India’s third - may strike after the festive season btween October and November.
The Centre has said that the Covid containment zones in Kerala need to be defined with a special focus on the high-transmission clusters. Contact-tracing efforts should further be scaled up to ensure that at least 20-25 contacts per positive case are identified and all contacts thus identified are put under quarantine.
Mass gatherings must be avoided at all costs and needs to be enforced by the district administration. With the current positivity rate is high, mandating a further increase in the number of tests conducted to detect the infection, in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
The Centre has also asked for a graded response action plan at the district level.