The Kerala government’s decision to relax coronavirus restrictions in view of Eid-al-Adha, or Bakrid, is “unwarranted and inappropriate”, the Indian Medical Association said on Sunday.

“When many northern states like J&K [Jammu and Kashmir], Uttar Pradesh, and Uttaranchal [Uttarakhand] have stopped, with a constructive sense of public safety, the traditional and popular pilgrimage Yatras, it is unfortunate that learned state of Kerala had taken these retrograde decisions,” the doctor’s body said in a statement.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had announced a three-day relaxation in the norms from Sunday, reported NDTV. Vijayan had said that shops selling clothes, footwear, jewellery, gift items, home appliances, electronics and repair outlets will be allowed to open. However, he had cautioned that restrictions were also needed to rein in the spread of the infection.

Kerala, which is one of the worst-hit states in India, recorded 13,956 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, taking the infection tally in the state to 31.6 lakh since the pandemic broke out in the country in January 2020. The toll climbed by 81 to 15,350. On Saturday, Kerala had recorded 16,148 new Covid-19 cases, reported the Hindustan Times. This was the highest single-day increase in one-day infections this month.

Health Minister Veena George said that areas with a test positivity rate of over 10% were inspected on Sunday and it was found that there were numerous clusters of infection due to celebrations such as weddings, change of residence and other events.

The doctor’s body demanded that the Kerala government withdraw the order and ensure that Covid-appropriate behaviour is followed. The IMA said that it would be forced to approach the Supreme Court if the government does not withdraw the decision.

“With the sustained progression of vaccination, avoiding mass gatherings in any form is the responsible duty expected at this crucial time from every citizen of the country,” the statement said.

It noted that the Supreme Court had also urged governments to avoid mass gatherings during religious festivals. Last week, the Supreme Court had taken suo motu cognisance of the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to allow the Kanwar Yatra from July 25 and asked it to reconsider its decision. On Saturday, the Adityanath-led government called off the annual pilgrimage.

The Uttarakhand government had also cancelled the Kanwar Yatra on July 13.

Experts have issued repeated warnings about an expected surge in coronavirus cases in India. On July 12, the Indian Medical Association had said that “tourist bonanza, pilgrimage travel, religious fervour” could wait and that people should follow Covid protocols for at least three more months.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, India recorded 41,157 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally of infections since the outbreak of the pandemic in January last year to 3,11,06,065. The number was 8.08% higher than Saturday’s tally of 38,079 cases.

The country’s toll rose to 4,13,609 as 518 more patients died due to the infection in the last day. The number of active cases in India stood at 4,22,660, while the count of recoveries reached 3,02,69,796.