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COVID-19 Lockdown: No Dilution of Guidelines, Says Kerala, Zones Created Based on Number of Cases

The state health ministry has identified 88 hotspots within the non-Green districts and these hotspots will follow the same regulations that are in place in the Red zones.
Kerala COVID-19

Representational image. | Image Courtesy: Economic Times

Kerala is making its way back to life, said the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday morning after the Centre came down heavily on the Kerala government for its decision to allow opening of restaurants, bus travel in cities and opening of MSME industries in the urban areas. According to the Centre, Kerala’s decision amounts to dilution of the lockdown guidelines and also a Supreme Court observation.

“From today on, some areas will see relaxations. We are not past the danger & must remain cautious. The lockdown must have made some of our life skills rusty; take extra precaution. Wash hands, Wear masks, Social Distancing,” Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted

In a letter to the Kerala government, the Union Home Ministry said the state government on April 17 circulated revised guidelines for lockdown measures which allowed activities that are prohibited in the Centre's consolidated revised guidelines issued on April 15. Such additional activities allowed by the government of Kerala include opening of local workshops, barber shops, restaurants, book stores, MSMEs in municipal limits, bus travel in cities and towns for shorter distance (upto 60 km), two passengers in the back seat of four wheelers and pillion riding on scooters.

In his letter sent on Sunday to Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also drew attention to the consolidated revised guidelines where it has been categorically stated that the state and UT governments shall not dilute them in any manner and shall strictly enforce the same. The States and UTs may, however, impose stricter measures than the guidelines as per requirement of local areas

Read more: The Question of Testing Continues to Haunt India’s Lockdown

Bhalla also referred to the recent Supreme Court observation that [state governments, public authorities and citizens of this country] will faithfully comply with the directives and orders issued by the Union in letter and spirit in the interest of public safety.

“The observations, which must be treated as directions of the Apex Court, was conveyed in my letter dated April 1 to all States and UTs,” he said.

"I would urge you to rectify the guidelines of government of Kerala in line with the consolidated revised guidelines dated April 15 and 16 without any dilution and to ensure strict compliance of lockdown measures," the Union home secretary said. 

However, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left government in Kerala said there was some "misunderstanding" due to which the Centre had objected to the dilution of the lockdown protocol.

Kerala Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said, "We have given relaxations in accordance with the Centre's guidelines. I think there is some misunderstanding, based on which the Centre has sought an explanation. Once we give an explanation, it will all be sorted out. The Centre and the state have the same stand with regard to fighting the pandemic. There is no contradiction in the stand taken. It's just a misunderstanding we will clear it.”

Four Zones

The Kerala government has categorised 14 districts of the state into four zones: Red, Green, Orange-A and Orange-B, for containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The worst-hit districts come under the Red zone: Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode and Malappuram where a complete lockdown will be in place until May 3. Pathanamthitta, Ernakulam and Kollam fall under the Orange-A zone. Alappuzha, Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad, Thrissur and Wayanad districts are under the Orange-B zone where curbs are to be eased from Monday. Kottayam and Idukki come under the Green zone. 

Read more: Kerala’s Covid Story is Hard to Replicate

The state health ministry has identified 88 hotspots within the non-Green districts and these hotspots will follow the same regulations as will be in the Red Zone. Kottayam and Idukki districts will be sanitised on Monday and plans are on to allow opening these two from Tuesday. 

All education institutions, cinema halls, shopping malls, public parks, bars and places of worship will remain closed across the state irrespective of the zones. 

In some parts of the state, cars with two passengers besides the driver and in case of a two-wheeler, only the driver and a pillion rider--if they are a family member--are being allowed. A government order also said that dine-out is allowed at hotels and restaurants until 7 pm in Green and Orange-B zones from Monday and in the Orange-A zone from Friday, while the takeaway counters will function until 8 pm along with others. 

Kerala on Sunday reported two positive cases of COVID-19 in the state, taking the total number of affected to 401 while the health department announced that 13 people were cured.

The consolidated revised guidelines on the measures to be taken by the central ministries and departments, states and UT governments were issued on April 15 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced extension of the lockdown till May 3.

The lockdown was first announced by the prime minister on March 24 in a bid to combat the novel coronavirus epidemic.

(With Inputs from PTI)

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