Movie theatres will remain closed in Kerala from Wednesday till March 31 as eight new cases of the novel coronavirus grips the state taking the total count of patients to 14 since Sunday. The highly contagious disease has affected 58 people in India and prompted authorities to step up safety measures.
The latest two confirmed cases are of the parents of the 3-year-old who had tested positive for the virus on Monday. The family had returned from Italy on March 7, and as the child showed some symptoms, officials took the family straight to the hospital from the airport.
The other six cases have links to another family that returned to Kerala from coronavirus-hit Italy without allegedly revealing their travel history to officials. The couple's elderly parents have also been infected.
Kerala has been on high alert and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan appealed that public gathering must be avoided. All public programmes have also been suspended till March 31.
To contain the spread, Mr Vijayan also declared that all schools till Class VII will remain closed this month and their examinations stand cancelled as of now. This is applicable for all schools, including those affiliated with CBSE and ICSE boards. For classes VIII to XII, examinations will be held per schedule. Students with any symptoms will not be allowed to sit for the examinations; a new date will be set for them later.
Colleges will remain closed this month as well.
Pinarayi Vijayan also said that at the Sabarimala temple, priests can conduct rituals but advised people to avoid going for darshan.
Thermal screenings at domestic airports in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi have also begun to ensure safety. The Chief Minister also said the number of sample testing labs will be increased.
He also added that strict action will be taken against those spreading rumours and fake news about coronavirus.
Community surveillance has also been intensified in Kerala by involving panchayat level officials in rural areas as well as residents' associations in urban areas. "We all have to be cautious and vigilant. It's not necessary that possible cases come from airports alone, there may be many who travel by road or by train," Health Minister KK Shailaja had said.
Kerala reported a shortage of hand sanitisers and masks across the state, but Ms Shailaja appealed to people to not panic, and instead use soaps to wash their hands regularly and towels to cover their face, if required.
"There is a shortage (of sanitisers and masks) in several countries. The central government has to cater to all acres in India. Union Health Minister (Dr Harsh Vardhan) had called me today, and I apprised him of the situation. There is shortage of masks and medicines. He has said he will look into it. We will also need more funds," KK Shailaja told media.
The state has also begun plotting the primary and secondary contacts of patients on maps, to analyse the trends, which would facilitate early intervention and resource mapping.
The novel coronavirus outbreak that originated in China's Wuhan in December last year has claimed over 4,000 lives and affected over a lakh people worldwide.