Kerala government in response to a plea challenging relaxation of Covid lockdown norms in the state for Bakra Eid festivities told SC that the norms were eased to address the distressing condition of the traders, who had stocked up for eid.
“With the economic slowdown haunting the traders, not allowing them to sell their stock during the festival would have dealt a crippling blow to their finances,” it said justifying the three-day relaxation of lockdown norms, which ends on Tuesday. The state added that only limited relaxations have been given, while all Covid-19 protocols are being followed in the markets.
The matter came up for hearing in the apex court before a bench of Justices R F Nariman and B R Gavai.
The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Kerala government’s response within 12 hours to the plea. Times of India reported, senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for applicant P K D Nambiar, told the bench that though among states, Kerala is registering the highest number of cases, the state government out of political considerations has relaxed the Covid curbs for three days at a time when the SC is expressing serious reservations over Kanwar Yatra.
On July 17, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had announced the concessions at a press conference and said that 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, 19 and 20 from 7 AM to 8 PM in category A, B, and C areas.
The IMA, the largest body of doctors in India, had warned the state government that it would approach the Supreme Court over easing of restrictions on pretext of religious gatherings around Bakrid amid the rising Covid cases in the state. The IMA had warned the state government over lifting Covid curbs ahead of the festival and called its decision as “retrograde”. It also cautioned that the third wave may be imminent if appropriate measures were not being taken.
The association also said it was inappropriate on the part of the state government to issue such an order during a medical emergency when north Indian states such as Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have cancelled “with a constructive sense of public safety the traditional and popular pilgrimage Yatras”.
The state recorded 16,148 new Covid cases, its highest single day rise in more than a month. The test positivity rate has shot up above 10%, which requires following restrictions according to ICMR guidelines.