(Eds: Adds details, combines related stories) Thiruvananthapuram, Apr 29 (PTI)The Kerala government on Wednesday made wearing of masks mandatory in public places with a fine of up to Rs 5,000 for repeat offenders and flagged incidence of other fever cases as the state's COVID-19 tally rose to 485 with ten more testing positive for the contagion.
It also decided to promulgate an ordinance to 'defer' a part of the salary of its employees for funding the COVID-19 relief activities, a day after the Kerala High Court stayed a government order for salary cut, observing that it lacked legal backing.
A TV journalist, who became the first from the media to test positive for coronavirus in the state, and three healthcare workers were among the ten new cases, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.
Media personnel need to be careful and should exercise caution while engaging in news gathering, he told reporters here.
Announcing the decision to make wearing of masks compulsory, he urged people to maintain personal hygiene and keep their locality clean as other fevers were also being reported from various places in the state.
'Masks, social distancing and hand wash must be part of our daily routine,' Vijayan said, adding that, police would penalise those who fail to use masks in public places.
DGP Loknath Behera later said masks have been made a must in the state and those not wearing it in public places and work spaces will be fined Rs 200 for first time offence.
'Penal action in the form of fine will be imposed on those who fail to use masks in public places or in their work space. Repeated offenders will be fined Rs 5,000,' he said in a release.
Of the new cases, six were reported from Kollam, two each from Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod.
'Five persons from Kollam were infected through contact, while one came to the state from Andhra Pradesh. One person from Thiruvananthapuram came from Tamil Nadu and one in Kasaragod got it from a contact,' Vijayan said.
Ten people have tested negative and the state presently had 123 active cases, while the aggregate stood at 485.
At least 20,673 people, including 501 in isolation wards of various hospitals, are under observation in the state where a total of 24,952 samples had been sent for testing, Vijayan said.
Vijayan said the state cabinet decided to bring an ordinance to defer the salary of government employees for funding Covid-19 relief works as the state's economy was in a shambles.
'The pandemic has affected the economy of the state.
That's why we had to take a decision on deferring the six days salary for five months of the government employees. But the high court said the government order lacked legal sanctity.
'Hence, in accordance with the high court order, the state cabinet has decided to pass an ordinance in this regard,' Vijayan said.
Earlier, Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac said as per the ordinance, the state government has been empowered to defer 25 per cent of the salary of the government employees in case of a disaster.
'The state government can take a decision on giving back the deferred amount within six months. These are the two operative provisions,' Isaac said.
As part of the next stage of 'Break the Chain' campaign, people have been asked to desist from spitting in publicplaces.
Kerala police has registered 4,435 cases across the state on Wednesday and arrested4,300 people for travelling in violation of the lockdown protocol.
Kannur district with 47 cases has the highest number of COVID-19 patients in the state followed by Kottayam with 18 and Idukki with 14 cases. Kasaragod has currently 12 positive cases and Kollam 15. PTI RRT UD VS VS