The Kerala government has eased Covid-19 related lockdown restrictions imposed despite the fact that over the last week, the state has accounted for 50 per cent of the country's COVID-19 cases.
The decision was taken after a Central team that toured the state criticised its contact tracing as weak while noting that home quarantine is increasing the spread of covid in the southern state.
From now on there will be no lockdown on Saturday. Another major change is the opening of shops in tourist places. The move is seen as the Kerala government's effort to balance public health and livelihood concerns.
The lifting of restrictions has been welcomed by the Opposition also.
"Those curbs were themselves adding to spread of infection... We are also happy that health minister agreed to review deaths in the last one year, so compensation can be paid," VD Satheesan, opposition leader in the Kerala Assembly, said.
A Central health team that toured Kerala last week, in its report to the Union health ministry, has said contact tracing of COVID-19 patients in the state is low, home isolation guidelines are not being followed and the number of tests conducted to detect the infection is showing a downward trend.
For instance, case contact ratio in Mallapuram is 1:1.5 whereas average family size in the district is above 5, the Central team said, suggesting that even primary contacts are being missed out.
They blamed an undetected pool of asymptomatic/ mildly symptomatic individuals in the community for spreading the virus.
The Central team also pointed out that average daily testing is on a downward trend though cases are rising and only 20 per cent RTPCR tests are being done.
After touring multiple districts with high prevalence, the team observed that facility based isolation has low acceptance, so many large joint families found positive.
They also said Central guidelines on containment and micro-containment were not adhered to and buffer areas around containment zones were missing.
Kerala's new modified guidelines address some of these concerns. For instance, entry into shops, markets, banks, public and private offices, financial institutions, factories, industrial establishments, open tourist spaces is now allowed only for those who can produce RTPCR negative certficiate from the last 72 hours, at least one vaccine two weeks ago or a positivity report from one month ago.
The onus is on the owners to display the vaccination status of employees and the number of customers permitted at any time.
Enforcement agencies would conduct checks and Rapid Response Teams are to be deployed for effective contact tracing and surveillance including monitoring of home quarantine and moving patients to Domiciliary Care Centres (DCC).
While schools, colleges, cinemas and hotels are beginning to open in other states, Kerala will have to wait longer. The state cannot afford to allow tourism to suffer any longer, so staying in hotels, resorts etc will be allowed in bio-bubble model in all areas on all days.