The Kerala government revoked relaxations in lockdown norms that it had allowed, following a rebuke from the central government, Mathrubhumi reported on Monday. The state had allowed buses to operate in cities and opening of micro, small and medium enterprises in municipal areas.
The Union Home Ministry, in a letter dated April 19, said that the Kerala government had circulated some revised guidelines on April 17 and allowed activities that were prohibited under the lockdown norms issued by the government on April 15. The ministry said the state government should rectify the guidelines and ensure strict compliance of the measures.
Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote: “Such additional activities allowed by government of Kerala amount to dilution of guidelines issued by MHA and violation of MHA order dated 15 April 2020 issued under Disaster Management Act 2005. I would urge you to rectify the guidelines of the Government of Kerala in line with the consolidated revised guidelines without any dilution and ensure strict compliance of lockdown measures.”
Last week, the Kerala government divided the state into four zones – red, orange A, orange B and green. The easing of lockdown restrictions has been allowed in orange A and B areas, as well as in green areas.
The additional activities allowed by the Kerala government include opening of local workshops, barber shops, restaurants, book stores, MSMEs in municipal limits, bus travel in the cities and towns for short distances, two passengers in the back seat of cars and pillions on scooters.
After the Centre’s rebuke, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government said barber shops will not be opened but barbers will be allowed to visit customers’ homes to provide services. Food delivery services will be allowed to stay open till 9 pm.
The Centre’s guidelines issued on April 15 said that states are allowed to make restrictions stricter than the ones in place nationwide, but cannot dilute them.
State minister Kadakampally Surendran had earlier said the central government may have asked for an explanation because of some misunderstanding, ANI reported. “We’ve given relaxations abiding by directions issued by Centre,” he added. “Once we give an explanation, I hope the issue will be solved. We followed all the norms set by the Centre.”
Kerala, which was the first state to report a coronavirus infection in the country, has largely managed to control the outbreak. Once the leading state in the number of coronavirus cases, the state has reported just 402 cases, including 270 recoveries and a mere three deaths. There are 55,590 people under observation, down from almost 200,000 at one point, according to the Hindustan Times.
In a separate letter, Bhalla asked all states and Union Territories to strictly comply with the government guidelines and ensure their implementation without any dilution.
“It has come to notice that some of the states/UTs are issuing orders allowing activities which may have not been allowed as per guidelines by MHA,” Bhalla said. “I would again urge you to ensure compliance of the revised consolidated guidelines, and direct all concerned authorities for their strict implementation in letter and spirit without any dilution and to ensure strict compliance of lockdown measures.”
Many states on Monday began to allow some economic activity in parts that are designated as non-hotspots or areas least affected by the Covid-19 pandemic that had forced the entire country into a lockdown on March 25.
The number of coronavirus patients in India crossed the 17,000-mark on Monday morning after the health ministry confirmed a record 1,553 new cases in the preceding 24 hours. The toll rose to 543.