The Kerala government has sent the Centre a report with suggestions about how to lift the nationwide lockdown in three phases, based on the recommendations of an expert committee set up by the state, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Tuesday, according to PTI. The entire country is under a 21-day lockdown since March 25 in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The committee, comprised of 17 individuals from various fields, submitted its report to the Kerala government on Monday. The report said that each of the three proposed phases of gradually relaxing the lockdown will have an eligibility criterion based on how many Covid-19 cases a district reports, The News Minute reported. It said that the time was “not yet ripe for full withdrawal” of the lockdown on April 14.
At least four chief ministers, and senior officials in some other states, have already hinted that the lockdown must be extended beyond April 14 to keep the coronavirus pandemic in control. However, the Centre on Tuesday urged the media to not speculate about it until an official decision is announced.
If the report were to be implemented, the first phase would apply from April 15 in districts that find not more than one new Covid-19 case in the week starting April 7, have no more than a 10% increase in the number of persons under home surveillance during the week. The district should also have no hotspots during the period.
The second phase would apply to districts with a maximum of one new case in the preceding fortnight. The third phase of the withdrawal of the lockdown would apply to districts that have had no new cases in the preceding fortnight, and have reported at least a 5% reduction in the number of people in home quarantine.
Each phase would be less stringent than the previous one, according to the panel’s report. The committee’s restrictions on movement of people from other countries and states was critical and should continue “unless the situation is under control in every state”, The News Minute reported.
For the first phase, the committee proposed that residents in the district should not be allowed to leave their home without face masks and ID cards, and only one person be allowed to leave per household at a time for a specific purpose, and not for more than three hours. Private firms can be allowed to work with 25% attendance after they have provided for masks and sanitised their offices, the committee suggested.
Individuals older than 65 years with history of conditions such as hypertension and diabetes should not be allowed to move outside, unless they obtain special passes, the report said, while describing the first phase. The committee also suggest an odd-even road rationing scheme for private vehicles, with none allowed on Sundays. Air and rail movement into the state would be disallowed in this phase, and state borders would be closed except for emergencies and essential products.
In the first phase, gatherings should be limited to five persons, with no religious congregations and visits to places of worship allowed, the report said. However, weddings and funerals may be attended up to 10 persons each, it said. Supermarkets, malls, theatres and bars with closed air-conditioning, and shops that sell jewellery, textiles and electronics would not reopen in this stage if the report is accepted.
In the second phase, buses, auto-rickshaws and taxis would be allowed with restrictions, according to the report’s proposal. Activities under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme would be allowed with protocols, and all micro, small and medium enterprises would also reopen in this phase, the report said.
The proposed third phase also has restrictions such as some norms for inter-district bus transport and domestic flights for essential passengers, doctors, health workers and patients. Non-resident Keralites stranded in other places will be allowed to return, but once they reach Kerala, they will have to undergo tests and be quarantined, the report suggested. People can be allowed to enter Kerala but undergo a 14-day home quarantine, it added.
In the third phase, the report recommended that educational institutes would be allowed to open only to hold examinations, and information technology firms, malls and stores would be allowed to function with curbs. Religious congregations, large weddings, political meetings or conferences, or cultural gatherings would continue to be prohibited.
The panel also suggested three general measures to be kept in place until June 30 – the mandatory use of face masks for those stepping outside the house, the need for permissions from local bodies for weddings only for 25 or fewer guests, and prohibition of air-conditioning in office spaces, cars and public transport unless needed for medical reasons, or for safe storage.
As of Tuesday evening, the Centre has confirmed 327 positive cases of Covid-19 in Kerala, including 58 recoveries and two deaths. In India, there are now 4,789 cases, including 353 recoveries and 124 deaths.
When asked about the strategy the state would adopt, Vijayan said that only after knowing the Centre’s decision on the lockdown would the state be able to decide on its future course of action. “The task force report was for the Centre’s perusal and not for the state government,” he said. “The Prime Minister had sought the report from the task force and the state government had sent it to the Centre after we received it yesterday.”