CM to chair all-party meeting to chart Kerala’s pandemic response

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had hinted at Kerala being in the long haul for an extended period of curbs, urging people to postpone unessential events “for at least a month”.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will chair an all-party meeting on April 26 to chart Kerala’s COVID-19 response.

The meeting will weigh in on whether weekend curbs should be extended to other days to slow the spread of the infection. Political parties will try to reach a general agreement on the future course of action.

Ahead of the video conference at noon, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said the United Democratic Front (UDF) was against a State-wide lockdown. Such a drastic measure would affect livlihood and dent the economy, he said.

Mr. Chennithala suggested extension of business hours to prevent overcrowding. He said the administration should place strict controls in hotspots and allow normalcy outside demarcated containment zones. The response to the pandemic should not hobble farm work and industrial activity, he added

“The government should be mindful of the difficulties faced by manual labourers, construction workers, motor vehicle employees, and other daily wage earners in making both ends meet. The State should bring such vulnerable sections under a welfare safety net.” He asked the government to distribute free ration and food kits to the public.

VHSE practicals cancelled

Meanwhile, the government cancelled the practical examinations for vocational higher secondary students (VHSE) scheduled for April 28, triggering speculation that the State might be in for a protracted lockdown-period like curbs.

Anticipating an explosion of COVID-19 cases, the State Health Agency has taken control of 12,000 beds in private hospitals. It has also altered the discharge protocol of COVID-19 hospitals, to facilitate discharge of patients with mild symptoms early in a bid to free up beds and life support systems for critically ill patients.

CM hints at extended curbs

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on April 24 said Kerala was sitting atop a volcano of mounting COVID-19 cases. It was incumbent on citizens to stymie a sudden eruption of new cases, he said.

He had hinted at Kerala being in the long haul for an extended period of curbs, urging people to postpone unessential events “for at least a month”.

“If coronavirus infections surged beyond the safety threshold, the outbreak would overrun the State’s finite health care resources. Kerala could not risk such an eventuality,” he had said.

‘Grim situation’

An official said the epidemic situation remained grim and had not improved since Mr. Vijayan last addressed the media on April 24. Public health experts have recommended stricter curbs, he said.

In what could be a precursor of the restrictions to come, Ernakulam district imposed more curbs on daily life. The district administration banned indoor dining, allowing only takeaway and home delivery services. Shops, hotels and commercial establishments can open at 7 a.m. and down shutters by 5 p.m.

It scaled down the number of attendees at a wedding from 75 to 30 and at funerals from 50 to 20. The administration also closed cinema halls till Sunday. It has banned cinema shooting, shut down parks and stopped clubbing and sporting activities till further orders.

An official said the restrictions in Ernakulam was more or less a template for the curb to follow in districts ravaged by the pandemic. “The incidence of new cases and transmission rate would determine whether the State should press ahead with further limitations on social activity.”

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