With curbs eased, Kerala treads cautiously to normalcy

More vehicles ply outside critical containment zones, people queue up at Bevco outlets

Kerala on Thursday took its first baby steps towards the seemingly long road to normality after a draining second COVID-19 lockdown season that lasted 41 days.

The spectre of a third wave driven by new and virulent strains of the fast mutating SARS-CoV-2 loomed, even as the State slowly opened up outside critical containment zones. A large swathe of the State fell in low spread (test positivity rate [TPR] less than 8%) and moderate spread (TPR between 8% and 20%) zones. The police scaled down their street presence, and people moved relatively freely. Travellers did not have to carry the mandatory affidavit stating their purpose of journey.

Public transport buses operated minimal services with less than half the number of permitted passengers. Autorickshaws and taxies plied with a maximum of two passengers.

Takeaway, home delivery

The government has banned street food and indoor dining for now in all zones. However, hotels and restaurants could sell food as takeaways and home-delivered parcels.

A visible sign of life returning to the usual pattern was people queuing to buy liquor outside State-run outlets at 9 a.m. in low and moderate spread regions. The lines shortened as more bars opened to sell liquor as takeaways at 11 a.m.

Security persons checked the body temperature of buyers before allowing them near the sales counter. An individual could legally purchase up to three litres of liquor at a given time.

Near liquor outlets

The police fanned out near liquor outlets to dissuade drinking in parked vehicles and public spaces. They enforced the mask mandate and ensured physical distancing.

Anil, the manager of a bar at Pattoor, said business was slow in the morning. It picked up soon, and stock of low-priced liquor was exhausted by 12.30 p.m. The resupply from the Kerala State Beverage’s Corporation (KSBC) would commence at 2 p.m. Bars have to shutter by 7 p.m. No sale of liquor was allowed on the weekend when the State would shut down totally.

Law enforcement generally discouraged non-essential inter-district travel. The police insisted that those travelling in “moderate COVID-19 spread” zones furnish affidavits stating their reason for the journey.

A government official said the police strictly enforced stay-at-home orders in local self-government jurisdictions that fell in the high spread zones (TPR between 20% and 30%). Critical containment zones (TPR above 30%) were under triple lockdown.

Review on June 23

The government has banned inessential travel between various pandemic zones. On Friday, hairdressing salons and workshops would open for business. They would operate on alternate days, except on the weekend.

A high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will review the pandemic regulations on June 23 after weighing reports from local self-government, police, and public health departments.

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