Kerala extends lockdown till June 9

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(adds details) Thiruvananthapuram, May 29 (PTI) The Kerala government on Saturday announced one more week extension of the statewide lockdown till June 9, to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some relaxations to perform essential activities.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced the extension of the shutdown at a press conference here. 'Although prevalence of the disease is declining significantly in the state, we have not yet reached a stage to remove restrictions. The lockdown will continue in all districts from May 31 to June 9,' the chief minister said.

The state has been under lockdown since May 8 following the sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

The chief minister also announced withdrawal of 'triple lockdown' in Malappuram district, where the number of cases was high.

However, the general lockdown will continue in the district along with other districts in the state.

The government had earlier extended statewide lockdown twice--on May 16 and May 23--after reviewing the situation.

Vijayan said the average test positivity rate (TPR) in the state for the last three days is less than 20 per cent in all the districts except Thiruvananthapuram (20.21) and Palakkad (23.86).

In Malappuram district, the TPR has decreased from a peak of 31.53 per cent on May 23 to 17.25 per cent.

In this context, the triple lockdown in the district will be withdrawn from May 30 but the lockdown will continue, the chief minister said.

He said there are 212 LSG bodies in the state with TPR above 30 per cent and 17 with TPR above 50 per cent.

Special inspections will be carried out at these local bodies, he said.

As per the new lockdown guidelines, some concessions will be given to perform essential activities.

All industrial establishments (including coir, cashew, etc) can function with minimum employees not exceeding 50 per cent of total strength.

Shops and units supplying raw materials (including packaging) to industrial establishments may be open till 5 pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Banks will remain open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with extended timings till 5 pm.

Shops selling education books, textiles for weddings, jewellery and footwear will be open till 5 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.Toddy sale will be allowed in parcels, following the COVID protocol.

Vijayan said more vaccine stock is expected in the first week of June and the vaccination drive will be intensified as per the availability.

'We intend to do maximum vaccinations by June 15.Vaccination of inmates of old-age homes, those above 45 years of age in tribal colonies and bedridden patients will be done as soon as possible,' he said.

Kerala logged23,513 new cases of COVID-19 today from 1,41,759 sample tests with a test positivity rate of 16.59 per cent. Meanwhile, 198 recent deaths were confirmed today as caused by COVID and the related toll in the state is now 8,455.

Vijayan said one of the main objectives behind the lockdown was to bring down the number of active cases in the state below 2.5 lakh, thus keeping in mind the number of patients that can be accommodated by the state's healthcare system.

'We could avoid a crisis that the second wave of COVID created in other parts of the country. There is no shortage of ICU beds, ventilators and oxygen. We could provide necessary treatment to all those who got infected in Kerala,' he said.

Vijayan said the number of hospitalised patients and the test positivity rate must further reduce in order to announce unlocking.

'Use of ICU beds should be less than 60 per cent (currently 70 per cent) and the average TPR for three consecutive days should be less than 15 per cent (presently 18 per cent). At the same time, there should be a seven-day reduction in the total number of active cases and the number of new cases,' he said.

The chief minister said the lockdown will be withdrawn only when all of these criteria are met.

'Otherwise, the spread will increase and go out of control resulting in more deaths,' he said.

Vijayan also said that vaccine companies have shown interest in setting up their manufacturing units on the premises of the Life Science Park of the Institute of Virology.PTI TGB BN BALA BN BALA

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