No lockdown in Kerala for now, says Kerala CM

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Thiruvananthapuram, Apr 21 (PTI) Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said that lockdown will not be implemented for now in the state, which witnessed the highest single day surge of COVID-19 cases, but there would be strict restrictions, especially in districts where the Test Positivity Rate (TPR) is high.

He said the LDF government has increased and improved the 'surge capacity' (to handle excess cases) of the health systemand spelt out a series of measures to check spread of the virus, including setting up a COVID First Line Treatment Centre in each taluk.

'All taluks will have at least one CFLTC. In areas with more that 35 per cent TPR, interventions on a war footing will be made,' he said.

The CM said 50 per cent of government employees would work on a rotation basis and the others, from home.

'Private sector employers should also provide work from home facilities to their employees.

April 24 will be a holiday for all offices in the state, as also banks and Public Sector Undertakings, but the ongoing higher secondary exams would go on as per schedule,' he said.

On April 24 and 25, only emergency services will function in the state, Vijayan said.

He said functions which had been decided earlier like marriages and house warming sessions can be held on the days fixed, but with the stipulated number of 75 attendees.

'All educational institutions, including tuition centres, will remain closed but online classes can be held.

Beaches, parks, bus stations, airports and markets should function only as per strict healthprotocol,' he said.

Kerala reported the highest single day surge of COVID-19 cases on Wednesday with 22,414 infections, including 105 health workers, while the toll touched 5,000 with 22 deaths.

The previous high was on April 20 with 19,577 cases.

The Chief Minister dismissed a query on whether the surge in cases was due to crowds during campaigning in the run up to the April 6 assembly polls and pointed out that no elections were held in Maharashtra, Delhi or Uttar Pradesh, which had all witnessed a record spike in cases.

'There were no election in these states. But there are reports of new strains of the virus from Maharashtra and Delhi.

Such cases have not been found in Kerala yet. We are yet to receive the detailed test reports. We need to be careful.

That's why we have made the RT-PCR test mandatory,' he said.

He said online booking facility will be made available for the people in the state for taking vaccination.

Dwelling more on the surge capacity, he said currently only 901 Intensive Care Unit beds out of the total of 9,735 in the state, including in the government and private sector, were being used.

'Only 50 per cent of ICU beds in the government sector are occupied now.

Out of the total of 3,776 ventilators in the state, only 277 are occupied by COVID patients,' Vijayan said.

On the oxygen requirements, he said the state had enough as it was producing 219.22 metric tonnes a day against the 74.25 metric tonnes a day needed.

A high-level meeting on Wednesday to evaluate the pandemic situation decided to form a state-level task force to monitor the situation, Vijayan said.

He said Local Self Government bodies will play an important role in containing the spread of the virus, as they did in the first phase of COVID-19 last year.

'LSGs will undertake the responsibility of providing food for the nuclear families in their areas in case they are affected by the pandemic,' he said.

The Chief Minister said night curfew would continue, but without affecting food distribution during the Ramzan season.

'Guest workers will also be vaccinated wherever they are located. If they are short of work due to restrictions, the local self bodies will provide them food,' Vijayan said.

He said government would convene a meeting of private hospitals, after which an all-party-meet will also be held to discuss and reduce celebrations once the election results are announced on May 2. PTI RRT APR ADMINISTRATOR APR ADMINISTRATOR