23/03/2020 4:17 PM IST | Updated 23/03/2020 8:20 PM IST

Kerala Locks Down Tonight As Coronavirus Cases Shoot Upto 91, Liquor Shops To Remain Open

Pinarayi had on Sunday denied news reports that said seven districts in the state had been locked down but asked people to strictly follow existing rules.

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A passenger wearing a face mask as a precaution against the spread of Coronavirus sits in a ferry.

Kerala will go into lockdown at midnight on Monday as the number of coronavirus positive cases shot up by 28 in the state, CM Pinarayi Vijayan said at a press conference.

The lockdown will be in place till March 31, he said, calling it “an unprecedented situation.”

Stricter measures will be put in place in Kasargod district while Kozhikode district already imposed Section 144 on Sunday. 

Of the 28 cases reported today, 19 are in Kasaragod, five in Kannur, two in Ernakulam, and one each in Pathanamitta and Thrissur.

Bars across the state will be closed, but they can sell alcohol from their front counter, Malayala Manorama reported. Bevco outlets—the state’s liquor shops—will be kept open.

Pinarayi had on Sunday denied news reports that said seven districts in the state had been locked down but asked people to strictly follow existing rules put in place to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The Centre’s directive had named ten Kerala districts among the 80 to be locked down across the country.

Apart from Kasargod, the Centre’s list for Kerala included Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Idukki, Kannur, Kottayam, Malappuram, Pathanamthitta, Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur.

Meanwhile, on Monday, a priest in Chalakudy was arrested for conducting mass in church, defying the state’s government order against mass gatherings. He was later let off on bail.

Kerala High Court decided to shutdown from March 24 to April 8 except for emergency functions.

Jump in new cases

Monday’s count was the highest rise in number of coronavirus patients in a single day, taking the total number of infected persons under treatment in the state to 91. This excludes the three people who were discharged earlier this month.

Health minister K.K. Shailaja said a person who had been under treatment in Kannur was discharged.

The state health department had on Sunday reported 15 new patients, of which five were in Kasargod, four in Kannur and two each in Malappuram, Kozhikode and Ernakulam districts. 

Decision on lockdown

On Sunday night, CM Pinarayi Vijayan had said,“News reports of lockdown in 7 districts in Kerala are wrong. The government has not decided on new restrictions in any district.”

“More restrictions will be implemented in Kasargod keeping special circumstances in mind,” he said. 

Chief Secretary Tom Jose had said that in case of lockdown, essential services like water, electricity, food, milk, medical shops, petrol pumps, provisional stores and others will not be affected.

“Lockdown is to restrict people from coming out in a group to public spaces. The Chief Minister will hold a meeting with the traders organisations and decide the timing for opening the stores,” Jose said.

He said even though the inter-state and inter-district public transportations have been halted, private vehicles will be allowed.

Restrictions in Kasargod and Kozhikode

Prohibitory orders were issued in Kasaragod district on Sunday and public transport services halted to contain the spread of Covid-19, after the state government granted permission to District Collectors to impose Section 144 if the situation demands it.

In Kozhikode, Section 144 was imposed on Sunday, banning assembly of more than 5 people in public places and more than 10 people at functions, including religious ceremonies d festivals. It has also limited timings for shops to 11am-5pm.

Kasaragod district, which has 19 patients, had already been under lockdown since Saturday after the state discovered that a man from the district had travelled widely and attended several mass gatherings, including a football match, wedding functions and a housewarming. 

The man, who had travel history of Dubai and was supposed to be in home quarantine for 14 days, tested positive for the novel coronavirus on March 19.

An exclusive centre for Covid-19 patients

The Ernakulam district administration on Sunday declared the Medical College Hospital in Kalamassery as an exclusive COVID-19 treatment centre, PTI reported.

The District Collector said the patients consulting doctors at the Medical College Hospital in Kalamassery should seek treatment at other government facilities in the district.

All other sections, except for emergency Out Patient wing and dialysis centre of the hospital, will be utilised for COVID-19 treatment, the collector said in a release.

The hospital superintendent has been directed to shift all patients being treated at the facility to the Ernakulam general hospital, Aluva district hospital and Kadavanthra Indira Gandhi Cooperative hospital, he said.

Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has asked the Centre to give the states authority to give clearances for manufacturing masks, gloves and sanitisers.

He also sought permission to access and use facilities available with all central institutions and research labs operating in the state.

(With PTI inputs)