Hope, tempered with caution, ahead of Onam in Kerala

Govt. might consider new control measures that will open up livelihood avenues

Kerala appears hopeful that the government will soon outline a plan to ease COVID-19 curbs on social life and commerce ahead of Onam. However, the government is apprehensive that the high average test positivity rate (above 15%) in at least 323 local government jurisdictions could dash the festival’s customary cheer.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is slated to review the COVID-19 curbs on August 3. The government has to walk a tightrope between curbing the pandemic and restoring livelihoods. It has to recalibrate pandemic control measures to fend off a possible third wave.

The government is also under duress from traders to open up the retail and hospitality sectors 24/7. The business community feels the current set of TPR-driven COVID-19 curbs are self-defeating.

Instead, they want the government to limit the restrictions to hotspots and allow regular activity outside. An official said there seemed to be no definite roadmap to weathering the pandemic. The pandemic situation is fluid. The ebb and flow of the pestilence are almost unpredictable.

The official said the State would have to devise a lockdown strategy responsive to the changing patterns of the outbreak and limit the restrictions to well-defined geographical areas most affected. Possibly, the government will need to alternate between phases of strict and relatively relaxed pandemic regulations.

The official said the mask mandate and physical distancing measures would remain. The government might take a call on allowing fully vaccinated customers inside malls, cinema halls, and sports complexes.

Micro-containment zones

The government is likely to impose micro-containment zones within a minimum radius of hotspots instead of locking down whole neighbourhoods. It would also weigh whether to extend the weekend lockdown and night curfew beyond August 3.

The administration is also worried that unregulated social visits and commuting on public transport will risk spreading the contagion during Onam. The government had earned the Supreme Court’s ire for lifting pandemic restrictions during Bakrid. Officials said homes with infected persons turning into superspreader locations was a persistent cause of worry. The pandemic situation is particularly precarious in Malappuram, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Ernakulam and Palakkad districts.

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