As the COVID-19 cases in the state continues to rise, Kerala Chief Minister Pinaryi Vijaayan on Friday said a complete lockdown may be imposed in the districts with a higher positivity rate from May 4.
"The surge in the COVID cases shows that the situation in the state is going worse. In this context, the interventions have been strengthened at all levels. Apart from the restrictions announced earlier, a full lockdown may have to be imposed in some districts where the Test Positivity Rate is exceeding 50 per cent. We will be going for more stringent restrictions from May 4," Vijayan said while addressing media personnel on Friday.
The Chief Minister said that during the lockdown only essential services will be functional.
"Banks will function till 2 pm (only till 1 pm for the public). Government offices, both state and Central, handling only emergency services, will be functional. Shops selling essential items will be open. Only takeaways and home delivery will be allowed from hotels and restaurants. However, there will be no restrictions on freight movement and for those who travel by air or rail," he said.
"Attendance at religious places should be restricted to a maximum of 50 people subject to available space. Ration shops and Civil Supplies stores will be open," he added.
According to official data, Kerala reported 37,199 new cases of COVID-19, 49 deaths in the last 24 hours.
"As many as 149,487 samples were tested in the last 24 hours. The positivity rate of the state stands at 24.88 per cent. The active cases in the state stand at 3,03,733," the data said.
Vijayan further said, "However, LSG bodies (local governments) should not declare lockdown on their own as it would not stand legally. Restrictions are being imposed by declaring Section 144 in places where cases are on the high. There may be further restrictions based on that. Only the National Disaster Management Authority, the State Disaster Management Authority, the District Disaster Management Authority, the Chief Secretary, the Revenue Secretary, and the District Collector (District Magistrate) have the power to issue these orders depending on the circumstances."
He said that strict restrictions will be imposed on areas declared as containment zones.
"This can be further strengthened by dividing the micro containment zones into clusters as it was done in the Kottayam district", the CM added.
The Chief Minister also requested the people to use double masks.
"Studies have found that the spread of COVID was controlled in various parts of the world where the use of masks was strictly enforced. It is important to use double masks when you step outside your home. Double masks do not mean wearing two cloth masks but instead placing a cloth mask after wearing a surgical mask. If we wear masks like this and wash our hands frequently, we can prevent the disease to a large extent," he said.
He urged individuals, celebrities and organisations to come forward to make people aware of the importance of wearing masks. He also said that the government will take strong legal action against those who spread misinformation.
Vijayan, while addressing the media, announced that oxygen war rooms are being set up in all districts.
"There will be an oxygen war room at the state level also. Issues that cannot be resolved at the district level will be handled at the state-level war room," he said.
"The required number of beds, ICU beds, ventilators and ambulance has been increased. The manpower resources in the health sector are also being strengthened along with the facilities. In this way, the government is trying to guard the state with maximum measures to ensure the safety of the people", he added.