Kerala Expert Committee's detailed plan recommends lockdown withdrawal in 3 phases

The expert committee has given specific details as to what services should be made available in each phase.
Kerala Expert Committee's detailed plan recommends lockdown withdrawal in 3 phases
Kerala Expert Committee's detailed plan recommends lockdown withdrawal in 3 phases
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An expert committee appointed by the Kerala government has made a series of recommendations and wants the Kerala government to withdraw the lockdown only in a phased manner. The committee, comprising 17 experts from various fields, recommended phasing the lockdown over three stages, starting from April 15. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the report will be sent to the Centre for its consideration.

The committee noted that the restricting movement of people from other countries and states is critical and should not be reversed "unless the situation is under control in every state".

The committee says that it ‘assessed that the time is not yet ripe for full withdrawal of the lockdown on April 14, 2020’. The committee’s recommendations come at a time when the Centre and many state governments have suggested the same.

This is how the committee suggests the withdrawal of the lockdown should be implemented:

A district will qualify for Phase 1 relaxation from April 15 only if it has not had more than one case in the week starting April 7. The district should have had no more than 10% increase in the number of persons under home surveillance and it should not have any hotspots between April 7 to 15.

Once a district is identified, there will be several relaxations and restrictions that the people living there will have to follow.

1. No person shall travel outside the house without wearing face masks or id cards.

2. Private sector can work with 25% attendance, but needs to provide masks and sanitise.

3. Only one person per house will be allowed outside the house at a time for a specific purpose and for not more than three hours at a time.

4. No person above 65 with any history of comorbidity (hypertension, diabetes) or undergoing any treatment for cancer or major ailments should be permitted to move outside the house. They can obtain special passes if needed.

5. Private vehicles should be restricted under an odd-even scheme and no vehicle movement during Sunday.

6. No gathering for any purpose more than five persons, no religious congregations and all places of worship shall remain closed.

7. Attendance at marriages and funerals should be restricted to 10 persons.

8. Airline and rail movement for passengers into the state should be totally disallowed.

9. State borders remain closed other than for emergencies and essential products,

10. Supermarkets, malls, theatres, bars etc with closed air-conditioning should not be permitted to be reopened.

11. Shops selling merchandise like jewellery, textiles and electronics cannot be opened.

The second phase will have lesser restrictions and all districts that have not seen more than one new case in a fortnight from the date of review will qualify. In this phase, buses, autos and taxis will be allowed with restrictions.

Activities under NREGS will be allowed with protocols (use of cloth masks and sanitisers) and all Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) shall be allowed to reopen in this phase.

A district will qualify for the third phase only if it has had no new cases in a fortnight from the date of review. The number of people in home quarantine should have decreased by more than 5%.

In this phase, inter-district bus transport with protocol restrictions will be allowed and so will domestic flights for essential passengers, doctors, health workers and patients. Non-Resident Keralites stranded in other places will be allowed to return, but once they reach Kerala, they will have to undergo various tests and be quarantined. People will be allowed to enter the state but undergo 14- day home quarantine.

Universities, schools and colleges shall be opened only for the purpose of holding Examinations. This phase will allow IT companies, malls and stores to function with certain restrictions. Online sale of liquor may be started by state Beverages Corporation (BEVCO). However, religious congregations, large marriages, political meetings or conferences or cultural gatherings shall continue to be prohibited during this phase. 

The committee also put forth three general measures that should be implemented till June 30.

1. People stepping outside the house should compulsorily wear masks.

2. For wedding, the families must get permission from the local body along with an undertaking that the ceremony will not have more than 25 guests (or more depending on the stage of the phasing down). Also, people should be encouraged to donate the money saved to the Chief Minister’s COVID Relief Fund.

3. Air conditioning in office spaces, cars and public transport should be disallowed, unless it is for a medically need or for safe storage of perishable items.

The committee has factored in a host of health and non-health objectives for the lockdown withdrawal strategy.

Apart from reducing the spread of the disease and increasing the testing to rule out community spread, it aims to minimise loss of healthcare professionals, reduce the stress on the existing healthcare system and continue public healthcare services such as vaccinations and food/nutrition of children and pregnant/feeding mothers. 

On the other hand, factors such as ensuring continuous access to food and other essentials, increasing livelihood opportunities, allowing the migrant workers and the non-resident Keralites to return home and improving public transport, were also considered.

The expert committee is headed by former Chief Secretary KM Abraham and has 16 members, including former Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan, Manorama Managing Editor Mammen Mathew, advocate Raman Pillai, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Muralee Thummarukudym the Chief of Disaster Risk Reduction in the UN Environment Programme

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