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Kerala enters stepped-up COVID-19 lockdown phase till June 9

Review of situation on June 8 to decide future course of action

Kerala on June 5 entered the first day of a relatively more intense and comparatively short-term (five-day) “stepped-up” COVID-19 lockdown enforcement phase to accord the State government more latitude to exert greater epidemic transmission control.

As a first step, the government has shut down public and private institutions and offices till further notice to reduce the potentially contagious interplay between people. With office traffic removed from the roads, the police will clamp down harsher on in-essential travel.

Lockdown further tightened

Since May 8, Kerala is under a prolonged but less severe lockdown in response to the resurgence of the pandemic.

Social gatherings, indoor dining, sale of legal liquor, and public transport already remain banned. The government has also banned the sale of toddy as a takeaway.

However, the government had reinforced lockdown restrictions from June 5 to June 9 to bridle the spike in the second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Cyclical containment strategy

The administration has locked down social and economic activities to achieve a drastic reduction in the test positivity rate that hovered around 15% on Friday.

An official says the five-day quarantine could be the precursor of a cyclical containment strategy to prepare for a possible third wave and keep the disease at bay until Kerala moved closer to universal vaccination.

It may entail a routine in which the workforce will divide themselves into alternating shifts, with less than 50% employed a given day.

The administration hopes the new measure will help sustain economic activity, albiet at a much lesser scale, and help the government better cushion the loss of employment and financial devastation caused by the back-to-back lockdowns.

Gig economy allowed

For one, the government has allowed food to be delivered home as parcels and keep the gig economy running while opening a door for youth to gain part-time employment. However, hotels could open only after 9 a.m. and should down shutters by 7.30 p.m.

As per the new regulations, only ration shops and stores selling food, groceries, fruits, vegetables, milk and dairy products could open for business during the specified 9 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. period.

The government has allowed the retail of meat, fish and cattle feed. It has also permitted animal husbandry related activities. Bakeries could open for business. There is no restriction on medical shops and fuel pumps. Replanting of rubber is allowed, given the monsoon season. All other retail and commercial activities, including production, remained banned.

Medical shops, fuel pumps

Persons entering Kerala will require an RT-PCR negative certificate. Citizens should sequester themselves indoors as far as possible. However, they could venture out to stock up on medicines and essential supplies from neighbourhood shops. Those who ventured a good distance away from homes without adequate reason risked prosecution.

The ban on public transport and inter-district travel remain. Autorickshaws and taxis could ferry passengers to and fro from airports, railway stations, vaccination centres, and hospitals. Night curfew regulations remain. Freight movement will continue as usual.

The government had earlier eased the restriction on walking or jogging for exercise in pubic spaces in the morning (5 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and evening (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.). The current order did not specify whether the administration had banned outdoor exercise during the four days.

Focus on containment in high-rises

Complete isolation of hot spots and households, including in apartments in high-rises, remained a prime feature of the State’s containment strategy. At the same time, the administration has said those who ostracised COVID-19 symptomatic persons risked prosecution.

Review on June 8

On June 8, a top-level epidemic management committee headed by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will review the impact of the current augmented lockdown regime to decide the future course of action.

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