After a gap of several days, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan held his press conference on Monday evening to give updates on the COVID-19 status in the state. The number of new cases, which had soared to more than 11,000 a day in October, has progressively reduced since then. While that is a good sign, the CM said that people had to exercise extreme caution since local body elections were soon happening and this would likely bring about crowds on the streets. He also warned devotees visiting Sabarimala this season to exercise caution.
On Monday, the number of new COVID-19 cases were recorded at 2,710, less than half the average number in recent weeks. However, tests were limited to 25,141 samples owing to it being a Sunday. The test positivity rate stands at 10.7, slightly more than the previous two days.
The CM however told the media that the state was one of the first to launch prevention work after the World Health Organisation sent its alert for the coronavirus. Early preparations had delayed the surge of infections in the state while the rest of the country recorded thousands of cases, he said.
"It took 156 days for Kerala to cross 5,000 cases since recording its first case in the end of January. In this time, the health department made efficient treatment facilities available, which is why even when the cases surged in Kerala, the death rate remained low. The death rate even when the cases peaked was 0.3% while the national average was 1.5%," CM Pinarayi said.
The highest peak was on October 24, when the total active cases were 97,417, nearing one lakh. As of Sunday, the total active cases are around 70,000.
"Although this is a reason for relief, the vigil of must continue. Surges can be intense in a second wave of the disease like it happened in the US and certain European countries. The Sweden model (in which a lockdown was not used but voluntary physical distancing was encouraged) had proved to be wrong. Our methods have been correct and it's really important to follow it now that elections are coming. The spread had increased in the US during the recent (presidential) election," the CM said.
Recommending masks and physical distancing for political workers, officials and people in general involved in campaigning, the CM suggested that contestants spread the message of following COVID-19 protocol in their campaigns. "Contestants should completely avoid holding hands, hugging voters and so on while they campaign. They should be especially cautious of the elderly during house visits. It is best to avoid rallies and road shows since that can result in crowding of people. Also avoid success celebrations at all stages," the CM warned.
The Chief Minister also detailed the precautions to be taken during the Sabarimala pilgrimage, the new season having begun on Monday.
CM Pinarayi also spoke of the mention of the state's handling of the pandemic in the Reserve Bank of India's yearly publication 'State Finances, a study of budgets of 2020-21'. The report mentioned the role of the local self government in the 'Kerala model of containment', CM Pinarayi said.