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Kerala enters another stifling weekend lockdown phase

Another economically crippling weekend lockdown is in place in Kerala on July 10 and 11 as part of the State’s desperate bid to haul down the worryingly high COVID-19 test positivity rate (TPR).

The average TPR has remained unrelentingly high at 10% in Kerala, prompting public health experts to ponder over the arguably peculiar behaviour of the pandemic.

The State experienced another scare on Saturday with 19 persons in Thiruvananthapuram, including health care workers and a pregnant woman, showing symptoms of Zika, a mosquito-borne viral infection.

The government has sent their blood samples to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, for testing. The State might have some consolation in a television news report on Saturday that suggested 17 of the 19 samples had tested negative for the virus. Moreover, a Central team is expected in Kerala to evaluate the Zika situation.

A forecast of heavy rain appeared to have exacerbated Kerala’s stifling weekend lockdown woes.

The Indian Meteorological Department has issued an orange alert in Idukki, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kannur districts.

An yellow alert is in place in Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Wayanad and Kasargode. The IMD has predicted rough seas and storm surges.

The government has cautioned traditional seafaring fishers against putting their boats out to the sea. It has also warned coast dwellers of tidal waves.

District administrations are keeping a keen eye on water levels in dams and rivers. They have warned people against travelling to hill stations.

Emergency services and disaster relief forces are on standby in Kannur and Kasargod following an extreme rain warning (red alert) for July 11.

Examinations on the weekend will be held as per schedule. The government has banned inessential travel. The KSRTC will operate minimal services for people working in essential sectors.

Hotels can deliver food home. Indoor dining and takeaways remained banned. Construction work is allowed. The sale of alcohol is prohibited. Only medical stores, meat, milk and fish stalls and groceries can remain open on the weekend.

On July 8, the government had revised the average test positivity rate (TPR) based delineation of COVID-19 pandemic zones.

It had grouped localities with less than 5% TPR as “Zone-A”, between 5% and 10% as Zone-B, between 10% and 15% as Zone-C and above 15% as Zone-D.

The government has imposed partial lockdown in Zone-B, lockdown in Zone-C and triple lockdown in Zone-D. It has allowed a semblance of normality in Zone-A.

As many as eighty-two LSGIs fell under Zone-A, 415 in Zone-B, 362 in Zone-C and 175 in Zone-D.

Officials said the pandemic situation in Kerala remained worrisome. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is scheduled to chair a review meeting on Saturday. Health, police, disaster management, and revenue officials will attend. However, a revision of the pandemic protocol, if at all, will be finalised on July 13.

As of Friday, Kerala reported 13,563 new COVID-19 cases. Kerala and Maharashtra have accounted for more than half of the COVID-19 cases reported in the country. There are 1,13,115 active COVID-19 cases in Kerala currently.

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