Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday, March 29, said that the state will pursue rapid testing to detect possible community transmission of COVID-19. The state has, so far, sent 6,690 samples for testing and 5,518 of them have shown no traces of the virus. Though the number of testing in the state is far ahead of other states, the rapid testing as advised by the World Health Organisation could help in finding out whether community transmission has occurred in the state.
On Sunday, 20 people were detected with COVID-19 in Kerala, taking the total number of infected people to 202, Health Minister K K Shailaja said. Of the 20 people, 18 had come from abroad and two others had been infected through contact.
While Kannur reported eight cases, Kasaragod seven, Thiruvananthapuram, Ernkulam, Thrissur, Palakad and Malappuram reported one case each, Shailaja said in a statement. One man who was positive was in the isolation ICU of the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College hospital, while one positive case from Ernakulam was a health worker.
The number of active cases in the state now stands at 181 after taking out the 20 who have recovered and one who has died. The samples of four high risk people who were under treatment at Pathnamthitta were found negative.
At least, 1,41,211 people are under observation across the state up from 1,34,370 the previous day, said the minister. Of this, 1,40,618 which is more than 99% of total cases under observation are still in home quarantine. The number the high-risk cases in hospitals, however, have come down marginally from 620 to 593.
Migrant labourers protest in Kottayam demanding return to home towns
On Sunday morning, hundreds of migrant workers at Payippad of Kottayam district had come out on the street defying the nationwide lockdown demanding to return to their home towns. Defying the directions of physical distancing, the workers started to gather in large numbers, exposing themselves to the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Soon after the workers had started to gather at Payippad, district collector PK Sudheer Babu and Superintendent of Police in the region, G Jayadev, intervened in this matter. Even though some news channels and others tried to portray the protest as resulting because of issues of food and water, the workers clearly stated that their only demand was to ease their return to their home town.
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As per official estimates, around 5,000 workers are residing in Payippad as of now against about 12,000 before the lockdown. As per the special directions of the state government, shelter homes have been made for migrant workers across the state under the charge of the local self governments. Food for workers is being ensured through the community kitchens. So far, more than 1,70,000 guest workers have been accommodated in around 5,000 camps across the state.
In Payippad as well, food for the workers had been ensured through the community kitchen in the panchayat. But, some workers demanded for North Indian style food including roti, while others demanded groceries so that they could cook themselves.
“We will ensure you have roti, North Indian food, anything that you need. I’ll personally ensure this. Please don’t crowd like this, it is a huge risk," said Jayadev, trying to placate the workers. A migrant worker, however, insisted that, “We have to go home."
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"None of them say they have a food shortage. They are demanding to return home, which is practically impossible. Both the state and the central directive is to stay wherever you are. They have heard that some northern states like Uttar Pradesh have made arrangements for migrants to return home, which has made them think that they can also return home," said the collector.
The state government, however, informed that an officer of the rank of principal secretary will be appointed to coordinate the efforts to ease the tension among the migrant workforce across the state.
Soon after the flash protest, Food and Civil Supplies Minister P. Thilothaman held discussions with officials in Kottayam and said the district and local authorities had already done all the arrangements for their basic needs including food, shelter and water. He also added that the demand now was only for transport facilities to go to their villages, irrespective of the lockdown.
The minister also said the government felt there was a conscious attempt to organise the migrant workers and added that an inquiry was being ordered. The district collector had also hinted about such a thing.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a press statement on Monday, termed the series of incidents as “totally unnecessary at a time when the whole nation is fighting COVID-19 using all possible measures.”
“Kerala has always kept its vigil in taking up the issues of guest workers. We have arranged food and medical facilities for them when the corona transmission began disrupting their job prospects. The coinage "guest workers" itself shows our warm vigil towards interstate migrant labourers in Kerala,” said the chief minister.
Pointing towards the possible external forces that might have forced the workers to stage the protest, Pinarayi Vijayan said: “There are generally no such difficulties for them here. But the gathering at Payippad shows that many other anti-social elements are at play to disrupt the social harmony of our state. We will identify them after a thorough investigation.”
Section 144 in Kottayam after guest labourers defy Covid-19 lockdown
Prohibitory orders under section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) were issued in Kottayam district on Monday, a day after a village near Changanassery saw a massive protest by hundreds of migrant workers, violating the 21-day lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to curb the spread of novel coronavirus.
District Collector PK Sudheer Babu issued the prohibitory orders as a measure "to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the district", officials said.
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The orders were issued following reports submitted by the district police chief and sub-divisional magistrate, stating that there were instances of public gathering in the district even after the government announced measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, officials said.
Youth Congress leader under police custody for spreading fake news
On Sunday, a youth Congress leader was arrested for defrauding guest workers. The police arrested Youth Congress’ Edavanna constituency secretary, after several guest workers had conducted meetings following his messages on social media. The messages say that there are trains from Nilambur in Malappuram district to Delhi especially for guest workers and these messages were doing the rounds in Whatsapp groups.
A case has been registered against him under sections 153, IPC 153 and KAP 118. The Malappuram district collector and SP on Sunday said that they would take strict action against those who spread fake propaganda.
(With Inputs from PTI)