Alarmed by the rise in Covid-19 cases, and ‘patient recalcitrance’, the government said severe action would be taken in case of non-cooperation with authorities.
In all this, emulating Punjab, the Kerala government has classified liquor as an ‘essential item’, raising eyebrows.
With the number of those affected by the pandemic Coronavirus (Covid-19) nearing 100 in Kerala, the state government has begun cracking the whip on those returning from abroad, especially Gulf returnees.
In one of the strongest messages to be delivered yet to those who have come from abroad, particularly non-resident Keralites (NRK), Kasaragod Collector Dr D Sajith Babu has warned that if any NRK violates government directives, “steps will be taken to ensure that they will never see the Gulf again!”
Thirty-nine persons in the district have tested positive for Covid-19 with a majority of them being Gulf returnees. On 23 March, 25 of those who tested positive for Coronavirus had come from West Asia.
Ameer B, allegedly involved in gold smuggling and a Gulf-returnee, has driven the district administration crazy after testing positive for the pandemic virus. He went on a travel and visit-spree despite being asked to quarantine himself, endangering at least 3,000 persons.
The Kasaragod collector’s warning comes on the heels of a person testing positive for Covid-19 after travelling for 20 minutes with another patient, who had returned from the Gulf.
“Our efforts are sincere (to contain the spread of the pandemic). We expect the people to cooperate. We know most of them make a living in the Gulf but we have specifically given our instructions to them,” Babu told media.
Concerned over 30 persons testing positive for Covid-19 on 23 March (Monday), Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that there would be a total lockdown from 24 March midnight to 31 March.
Vijayan had been reluctant to lock down the state despite an advisory from the Centre and had said only a few districts, including Kasaragod, would be locked down. But Monday's turn of events forced the state government's in to compliance.
So far, 97 persons have tested positive for Covid-19, though four of them have recovered. Apart from Kasaragod, another northern Kerala district, Kannur, has reported 15 Covid-19 positive cases.
Two other districts in the region — Kannur and Malappuram — have reported four cases each of those infected with the pandemic virus. This means northern Kerala accounts for two-thirds of the total cases in the state.
Approximately, 65,000 persons in Kerala are under observation with 64,000 of them being isolated at their residences. Of the rest, 383 have been put in isolated wards of hospitals. Nearly, 4,300 samples drawn have been sent for Covid-19 testing.
‘Peculiar Situation Needs The State To Keep Liquor Outlets Open’
Meanwhile, Vijayan, while announcing the list of essential items, classified all beverages, including liquor, among them. Establishments providing these ‘essential items’ would be kept open.
In order to counter the Opposition Congress in the state for keeping liquor outlets open, he said Punjab had decided to keep liquor flowing in the state, pointing out to a tweet by its Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.
“The peculiar situation in the state demands the measure (to keep the liquor outlets open),” Vijayan told the media, which sought clarification on the issue.
Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, the media has been filled with reports of how people in Kerala continue to visit liquor outlets, with the pandemic forcing them now to stand at a distance from one another.
The Kerala government, however, said that bars would be shut down. The state earns at least Rs 2,500 crore as taxes from liquor. This could be one reason for keeping them open as the state faces a financial crunch.