(Eds: adding CM's remarks, details) Thiruvananthapuram, May 21 (PTI) The Kerala government on Friday announced a one week extension of the state-wide lockdown till May 30, to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state has been under lockdown since May 8 after weekend restrictions and lockdown-like curbs imposed earlier failed to create any desired impact in terms of the daily caseload of the infected persons.
On May 16, the lockdown was extended to May 23.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also announced the withdrawal of 'triple lockdown' measures being implemented in three districts-- Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam and Thrissur from May 16.
However, the 'triple lockdown' will be continued in Malappuram district.
Briefing the media, Vijayan said the average Test Positivity Rate for the last three days was 23.3 per cent.
'While the TPR is more in Malappuram, it is decreasing in other districts. Active cases are declining in all districts.' Noting that the virus was still spreading,the CM said the number of active cases and TPR has fallen below 25 per cent in the districts where triple lockdown was imposed, except in Malappuram.
'Therefore, the triple lockdown will be exempted in Ernakulam, Thrissur and Thiruvananthapuram districts from tomorrow morning (May 22).
It will continue in Malappuram while the regular lockdown will continue in all other districts', he said.
Kerala on Friday reported 29,673 cases and 142 deaths.
The number of fatalities is the highest reported on any single day and took the toll to 6,994.
Referring to the numbers during the second wave of the pandemic, Vijayan said Kerala was one of the states with the highest number of reported cases in the country.
The state, he said, was able to contain the number of deaths because it slowed down the rate at which the disease was spreading.
'Despite the declining number of cases, health experts say the death toll in Kerala is likely to rise in the coming days.
The deaths reported now are the result of the infection that happened two to six weeks earlier when the outbreak was at its peak.
Thats why the fatalities are increasing,' he said.
In the meantime, the priority category for vaccination of those in the 18 to 44-year-old age group has been reconstituted.
Field staff in the Food and Civil Supplies Department, Food Corporation of India, Postal Department, Social Justice Department, Women and Child Welfare Department and Animal Husbandry Department will be included in the priority category, along with Port employees.
Vijayan said the government was exploring the possibility of vaccine production in the state with the Institute of Advanced Virology examining whether it was feasible to open branches of companies manufacting them on their campus.
The CM said that experts in this field, the State Council for Science, Technology and Environment and scientists from the Institute of Advanced Virology would conduct a webinar to arrive at an agreement on this.
He said the government would ensure the availability of medicine for the treatment of black fungus, which has affected a few people in the state.
The Kerala Medical Service Corporation has placed an order for 50,000 doses of the antiviral 2-DG drug for treating COVID, he said. PTI TGB APR ADMINISTRATOR APR ADMINISTRATOR