Amid rising number of Covid-19 cases in Kerala, more than a dozen of opposition leaders in the state -- both from Congress led United Democratic Front (UDF) and BJP -- have tested positive. Moreover, these leaders were the part of a recent series of protests in the state.
The Congress led UDF and BJP outfits have been on the warpath ever since state Higher Education minister K T Jaleel was questioned by central agencies over the gold smuggling scam and the alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 in accepting Quran brought from UAE for distribution as charity during Ramzan.
Many of the protesters also tested positive for Covid-19. Since a large number of people have gathered in these protests, the contact list of those who have tested positive is large.
On September 22, the Youth Congress state general secretary tested positive. He had led a march in Kollam district demanding Jaleel’s resignation. As hundreds of people have participated in this march, the fear of virus spread is looming.
Youth Congress’s Alappuzha district president also tested positive on September 22. Since he led the collectorate march of Youth Congress in Alappuzha, he had come in close contact with many during the protest. Police officers, including Alappuzha North Circle Inspector, are under quarantine after coming in contact with the Youth Congress leader.
TP Akhil Dev, a national youth volunteer at Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, who was former Palakkad district secretary of ABVP, had also tested positive and he took part in the protests.
Earlier on September 14, there were reports of Congress workers who had been asked to go on quarantine but were participating in protests against MLA Kovoor Kunjumon.
The Thiruvananthapuram district president of Kerala Students Union (KSU)- the student front of Congress- had also tested positive days after the September 14 protests in front of state secretariat. Following these, a group of policemen and many others have gone under quarantine.
Commenting on the recent spurt of protests by opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) and BJP in the state without following Covid protocols, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday said that they have contributed to the spread of the virus.
The chief minister, however, said that he is not against people’s rights to protest in a democratic manner following the Covid-19 protocols. But he said there was a need to be cautious against the spread of the virus.
“We live with Covid and we all have radically changed our previous lives. This is to save the lives of the people. We all care for people around us and that is why we take all these precautions. But the opposition is subverting it in the name of agitation. Even the World Health Organization recommends avoiding crowds. The opposition is organising protests without following these advisories,” Vijayan said.
On Tuesday, as many as 4,125 people tested positive in Kerala and among them, 3,463 were infected through contact and the source of infection for 412 people was not yet known. As of Tuesday, 40,382 people are under treatment across the state. As many as 1,01,731 people have so far recovered from the virus and the total infection count in the state has touched 1,42,756 so far.
Saying that the Covid situation in the state was grim, Vijayan added that the spread of the infection was "extremely severe" in Thiruvananthapuram, where 681 cases were detected on Tuesday. Of the total 681 new cases in the state capital, 101 are policemen who were on duty during the protests for the past few days.
As many as 164 policemen are primary contacts; 171 people are under observation and many police officers are under quarantine as their colleagues have tested positive. “These hinder the government's efforts against Covid-19,” the chief minister said.
"Till yesterday, the state's active cases were 39,258, of which Thiruvananthapuram accounted for 7,047, about 18%, while the death count was 553 and 175 deaths were from the capital district, that is about 32%."
In this situation, the opposition parties were staging violent protests on a daily basis instead of maintaining social distancing, Vijayan said and wanted the political parties to behave “responsibly” and follow Covid protocol while protesting.
"Protest marches are affecting the state detrimentally. The High Court has stated whatever it could on the subject. Police cannot maintain social distancing while controlling protestors. Sometimes they have to use force to bring the protestors under control. All this increases the chance of disease transmission. Even senior police officers are contracting the disease.” the CM said.