Kerala Proposes Phased Relaxation of Covid19 Lockdown, Centre Objects
Update: After the publication of this article, the Kerala government reversed its position, and will no longer be starting a phased reopening of the state.
Kerala’s Covid19 cases have now slowed down in the state, recovery rates are high, and the mortality rates are low, BBC reported last week. Now, having managed to flatten the curve, the Kerala government released detailed guidelines on Saturday for reopening the state in a staggered manner, starting today. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs wrote a letter to the state government, objecting strongly to the reopening, and accusing Kerala’s government of diluting the centre’s lockdown guidelines.
The phased reopening seeks to divide the state into four zones — Red, Orange A, Orange B and Green. While the red zone, which includes hotspots and has the highest number of Covid19 cases, would not see any relaxation in lockdown measures, the green and orange A zones were set for a partial reopening today, and the orange B zone, on Thursday.
Even under the relaxed guidelines, social distancing would remain intact. The rules require people to continue wearing masks in public, and a limits remain on use of private vehicles. Moreover, restaurants have been allowed to offer dine-in services till 7 p.m., barber shops have been permitted to open, and small businesses are allowed to resume operations.
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However, air travel, or any form of inter-district travel by trains or buses, is not set to reopen even in green zones. In addition, the state government plans to keep religious places, shopping malls, movie theaters, swimming pools, sports complexes and gyms shut across the state. And, for funerals and weddings, the Kerala government set an upper limit on the congregation of people to twenty.
But yesterday, the Union Home Secretary wrote a strongly-worded letter to the state government accusing its staggered reopening policy of being in violation of the Centre’s Covid19-lockdown guidelines under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. “I would urge you to rectify the guidelines in line with the consolidated revised guidelines dated April 15 and April 16, 2020, without any dilution and to ensure strict compliance of lockdown measures,” the letter said.
However, the Kerala government is insisting that its guidelines are in line with the lockdown imposed by the central government, and the rift between the centre and the state is merely a misunderstanding. “We have given relaxations in accordance with the Centre’s guidelines. I think there is some misunderstanding, based on which the Centre has sought an explanation. Once we give an explanation, it will all be sorted out,” Kadakampally Surendran, Tourism Minister for Kerala, reportedly said.