After 14 people have been tested positive in Kerala in the second phase of spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the state government on Tuesday announced a major clampdown on all public functions across the state to curtail the further spread of the virus. So far, Kerala has seen 17 cases of COVID-19, including three who have already recovered and were discharged from hospitals last month. The total number of cases across the country stands at 60 as of Wednesday evening.
As per the latest reports, a 76-year-old man suspected to be infected with coronavirus has died in Karnataka’s Kalaburgi according to government data. Of the total 60 confirmed cases across the country, 44 are Indian nationals and 16 are Italians.
The state-wise data shows that, in addition to the 14 new cases in Kerala, four cases have been reported from Karnataka, five from Maharashtra, six cases in Delhi, nine cases in Uttar Pradesh, two cases from Ladakh and one each from Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Telangana.
Isolation wards have been made in every state and the health department of all states along with the Centre are working tirelessly to tackle the virus in their states. Contact tracing is also being worked out in many states. Union territories including Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh have also imposed certain restrictions. In Jammu and Kashmir, cinema halls are to remain closed till March 31. While, Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh has ordered closure of all colleges and university campuses of Ladakh university till March 31.
In Kerala, the state government has imposed severe restrictions, including closure of educational institutions and cinema houses till the month end, in addition to the clampdown on all public events, whether its political, religious or educational. Announcing the latest cases at a media interaction after a special cabinet meeting held to discuss the coronavirus situation, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday said at least 1,116 people are under observation- 149 in isolation wards of various hospitals and 967 under quarantine in their homes.
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The fresh cases in the state are the friends and relatives of a Italy-returned couple and their son who had on Saturday tested positive along with two other kin staying with them at their home in Ranne in Pathanamthitta district, Health Minister K K Shailaja said at the media interaction. The aged parents of the couple are among the eight latest positive cases, she said. Besides these 11, a three-year child along with his parents who returned from Italy, also tested positive in Kochi.
Steps Taken by Kerala Govt to Prevent Spread of novel coronavirus
Vijayan further said that Classes from I to VII standards of all schools- state, CBSE and ICSE boards- will remain shut and examinations which have begun for them will be put on hold. Examinations for classes X, XI and XII, and vocational higher secondary will, however, continue. Final examinations of class eight and ninth also will proceed as usual. However, the students under observation would be permitted to write examinations in a special room, he added.
Madrasas, anganwadis, tution classes and tutorials will also be closed till March 31 while drama theatres and art and cultural festivals should be avoided. Though the anganwadis remain closed, to ensure that there is no interruption in the nutritious food for the children being served at the anganwadi centres, the government has arranged for their food to be delivered at their homes.
Temple and church festivals, which witness mass gatherings should be avoided, but rituals can be held in a low key manner, the CM said in the media interaction.
"This is a time when large number of festivals are held in Kerala in which scores of people participate. At this juncture, it will be harmful if such gatherings are held as it could help in spread of the virus," Vijayan said, adding, “As the hill temple Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala will re- open on March 13, monthly poojas can be held, but at this juncture devotees should avoid darshan.”
Travancore Devaswom Board President N Vasu also said that rituals can be held inside the shrine. "The pilgrims will not be prevented from coming. But it is our appeal to them to desist from visiting the shrine due to the present circumstances,” he added.
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Among other restrictions, Vijayan said that marriage rituals can be held, but large gathering of people should be avoided. All government related functions, including those with ministers’ participation, have been postponed. In all government offices, precautions will be taken against the spread of the coronavirus and sanitisers would be made available, the CM added.
He further requested those coming from coronavirus-affected countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea, to take precautions and steps to quarantine themselves in their homes or hotels. He added that district collectors have been instructed to provide families placed under home quarantine with all essential materials they require.
Biometric punching at secretariat and all government offices and PSUs had been stopped till March 31. Private sector organisations should also take similar measures, the chief minister late said in a statement.
Meanwhile, students wearing masks appeared for SSLC examination in Pathanamthitta district. Sanitisers were also provided to them. Two students, under observation for the virus, appeared for the examination in a separate room at their school. In the same district, another man under observation for suspected coronavirus infection at the isolation ward of the district hospital fled, but was tracked and brought back within hours, which was confirmed by district collector P B Nooh.
Surveillance through people’s participation
The state government is also going to make arrangements with the help of ward members and ASHA workers to observe the arrival of people from the affected regions. In urban areas, the help of resident associations will be made use of. International travellers arriving at airports/ports have been directed to disclose their country or city of origin and travel history. There is a strict warning from the government that any attempt to evade screening at the time of arrival or hide symptoms would be considered as violation of the law. Along with this, arrangements are being made to deliver food to families under observation. Necessary arrangements will be made in each district under the supervision of respective district collectors.
Indians stranded in Italy
Amid all these developments, the Centre has issued a circular stating that persons travelling from/ having visited Italy or Republic of Korea and desirous of entering India need to obtain certificates of having tested negative for COVID- 19. This has resulted in many Indians being stranded in Milan and Rome. Following this, the Kerala CM wrote to Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday seeking urgent measures to bring home the Indians who are stuck there. The letter stated, “The certificates have been made mandatory irrespective of whether these travellers have symptoms or not. It has been brought to notice that foreign authorities are not ready to test people without symptoms as they are already overloaded with patients.”
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(with Inputs from PTI)