Spike in cases raises spectre of more curbs

For now, plan is to isolate COVID clusters and allow regular activity outside them

The COVID-19 flare-up and climbing test positivity rate in the State have raised the spectre of night curfew, weekend lockdown, shuttered movie theatres, reduced seating in restaurants, cancelled public transport services, skeletal staff in offices and closed parks, beaches and sports complexes.

The weekend lockdown and stringent pandemic-control measures in neighbouring Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have not helped mitigate the anxiety. The contiguous States had closed their borders with Kerala and allowed only emergency services and freight movement on the weekend.

Health Minister Veena George said on Saturday that a lockdown was not on the government’s immediate agenda. The arguably lower severity of the illness, reduced hospitalisation, high vaccination rate, surplus hospital beds, sufficient stock of supplemental oxygen and ventilators seemed to have influenced the government’s thinking.

Nevertheless, Ms. George had counselled the public to adhere to the COVID-19 protocol strictly and not allow complacency to set in so as a protracted lockdown could be avoided.

However, a government official privy to pandemic review meetings said matters could take a turn for the worse if the pandemic panned out badly for the State.

Online meeting

A crucial online meeting between State Health ministers and the Central government on Monday would possibly chart out a roadmap to contain the Omicron-spurred third COVID-19 wave.

He said the government was acutely aware of the economic fallout of a total lockdown. Hence, for now, the plan was to isolate clusters at the neighbourhood- and household-level and allow regular activity outside the hotspot.

However, the strategy was subject to change as the nature of the “third wave” became more evident, he said.

Oppn. slams govt.

Meanwhile, the State government has come under fire from the Opposition for allegedly underestimating the peril posed by the current COVID-19 breakout.

For one, television images of jostling crowds at Sabarimala had raised public concern in some measure.

By one account, public health experts had reportedly expressed reservations about easing restrictions at Sabarimala for the Makaravilakku festival. Lakhs of devotees from across the country were expected to assemble at the temple to witness ‘Makara Jyothi.’

Cong. flays Riyas

On Saturday, the Opposition blamed the government for throwing caution to the winds at State-sponsored functions. Congress leader Bindu Krishna slammed PWD Minister P.A. Mohamed Riyas for alleged COVID-19 protocol violation at the inauguration of the flyover at Edappal in Malappuram. In an FB post, Ms. Krishna said the police, which slapped heavy fines on individuals for minor infractions of the COVID-19 protocol, had turned a blind eye to the violations at the event.

Indian Union Muslim League(IUML) leader P.K. Abdu Rabb also echoed a similar sentiment. He said the police had slapped cases for COVID-19-protocol violation on Muslim Coordination Committee members who attended a Waqf protection meeting at Pukkiparambu recently. However, it had turned a blind eye to Mr. Riyas’s ‘indiscretion’. Mr. Rabb said the government insisted that expatriates returning home isolate themselves for a week. However, it had no qualms about not enforcing the pandemic code in public places.

Review today

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will take a call on pandemic control measures, if any, at the COVID-19 review meeting on Monday.

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