The Thrissur Pooram cannot be cancelled, Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja said on Saturday. She said there was a downward trend earlier during election time, and permission to conduct the Thrissur Pooram was also given considering the dip in cases
Only those who bring certificates of having tested negative for the novel coronavirus or having taken both doses of the vaccination will be allowed to attend the festival, she said.
“Many preparations have been made for the festival, so it is not possible to cancel it entirely. It will cause many problems. Clear instructions have been given to conduct it with caution which the Devaswom committee has been agreed to. Even those who test negative should still wear masks, apply sanitisers and keep as much distance as possible from each other,” the minister said.
Thrissur Pooram is an annual temple festival held in the state every summer. It is the single largest Hindu festival in Kerala in terms of the scale of people attending the festivities.
The Pooram is a competition of sorts between two sides, with five temples on either side. They are led by the Parmekkavu Bhagavathi temple and the Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna temples. Every year since it’s inception, the festival is celebrated on the premises of the Vadakkunathan temple at the centre of Thrissur town and normally around 2 million people attend the festival.
The Kerala government has been facing stiff opposition from temple committees and other opposition parties like the Congress and BJP who have said that the pooram cannot be cancelled. The Paramekkavu Devaswom responded to the restrictions, taking on a communal angle. The government is trying to sabotage the Thrissur Pooram with all the protocol, which are not followed for any festival, said Paramekkavu Devaswom secretary G Rajesh. In an interview to the media on Sunday, Rajesh claimed that the government "was tricking people with false TPR ratings". The government either "reduced or increased" the TPR the way it suited their interests, he claimed. Saying that they might even decide to close the whole Thrissur district down citing COVID-19, Rajesh took on a communal angle, asking devotees to not allow this. The pooram can happen even if the organisers do not go, all it needs is for the gods to have their procession.
He also spoke against the government's changing protocol - at first it was only required that the devotees coming to the festival take one dose of vaccination, now they'd need two.
On Saturday, Kerala asked for 50 lakh vaccine doses from the Union government. The state has received 60,84,360 doses from the Union government so far and administered 56,75,138 of these, and said it needed the vaccine doses immediately.
The mass vaccination campaign of the state will suffer if more doses do not come from the Union government soon enough, said Minister Shailaja.
“Like the rest of the country, Kerala too has been seeing a sudden surge in cases since the end of March. We are trying to destroy this second wave by crushing the curve. We have amped up testing. Bulk testing – about 2.5 lakh in two days – is being done, giving priority to people aged under 45 who’ve had mass contact and those above 45 who have not been vaccinated yet,” Minister Shailaja said after a meeting with Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.
She added that as many as 1.39 crore tests have been done so far and the tests per million are better than the national average. “The death rate is also still low, at 0.4%. Other states reported not having sufficient hospital space or oxygen supply to accommodate all the patients. Because of diligent planning, Kerala is equipped with facilities for different categories of patients,” said the Health Minister.
A serosurvey conducted last month revealed that 11% of Kerala’s population was infected by the coronavirus. This required people to go back to the basics of breaking the chain using masks and sanitisers and maintaining physical distance from each other, the minister said.
The Health Minister said that as of now, Kerala is prepared to meet a surge in cases.
“Asymptomatic patients who have facilities at home (a separate room and a toilet) will be quarantined at home. If there are no such facilities at home, the local self-governing body will arrange accommodation at domiciliary care centres. B category patients – with minor symptoms – will be admitted at district level COVID second-line treatment centres. The C category patients, with serious difficulties, will be treated at government hospitals. But we don’t expect many C category patients even in the second wave,” she said.
Watch: Minister Shailaja addresses media