20/04/2020 12:04 PM IST | Updated 20/04/2020 7:33 PM IST

Kerala Brings Back Certain Curbs After Centre Objects To Relaxed Lockdown Rules In 7 Districts

The state on Monday relaxed certain lockdown rules in two zones, which comprise seven districts.

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People wait at an ATM counter to withdraw money during the lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Kochi, March 30, 2020. 

Kerala government has brought back a few curbs after the Union home ministry objected to the manner in which the state government allowed the partial relaxation of certain lockdown rules in seven districts of the state, starting Monday.

At a press conference, CM Pinarayi Vijayan said the decision to allow barber shops to open was on hold till further notice. Dine-in will not be permitted at restaurants as had been said earlier, but takeaway would be still available.

“The initial relaxation had led to busy streets in several parts and the state has decided to act on this strictly,” Pinarayi said.

The CM also said there was no dispute with the Centre regarding the lockdown rules.

“I have already said we will follow the Centre’s guidelines. We decide on some things based on our experience and the situation here. There may be some differences, but there is no dispute, there is no argument. The Centre understands,” he said.

Kerala had last week differed with the Centre’s demarcation of hotspots in the state.

The state government divided the state into four zones. On Sunday, state police chief Loknath Behera said the state would allow for relaxation of certain rules in two zones from April 20. The two zones comprise seven districts in the state — the green zone of Kottayam and Idukki districts and the Orange-B zone of Alappuzha, Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad, Thrissur and Wayanad districts.

After the home ministry’s letter on the lockdown relaxation, the state’s tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran told reporters on Monday that there had been a “misunderstanding”.

“We have given relaxations in accordance with the Centre’s guidelines. I think there is some misunderstanding, based on which the Centre has sought an explanation. Once we give an explanation, it will all be sorted out. The Centre and the state have the same stand with regard to fight the pandemic. There is no contradiction in the stand taken. It’s just a misunderstanding we will clear it.”

This is what had been allowed:

— In the green and orange-B zones, the state allowed inter-district and inter-state travel for essential services, opening of shops selling agriculture, pisciculture and plantation products, construction work and plying of vehicles under an psd-even scheme, Manorama reported.

— Dine-in services allowed at hotels and restaurants till 7 pm, while take-away services can function till 8 pm.

— Courts can re-open from Tuesday, to function with 33% of staff while cases are heard through video conferencing. 

— Banks can function as per the usual timings except in Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode and Malappuram districts, which fall under the red zone.

— On Sundays, only those working for essential services are allowed to use their vehicles.

— The health department and local administration can carry out sanitation work before the monsoon.

— Large gatherings are still prohibited across the state, with educations institutions, movie theatres, malls and places of worship to remain closed in all districts.

— The Transport Ministry clarified that public transport won’t be allowed to ply in the state during the lockdown period.

— Home nurses, nursing assistants and nursing helpers are exempt from the lockdown after April 20, DGP Behera said. Kerala has said it will allow pregnant women and people seeking medical aid from other states, subject to restrictions, Manorama reported.

The home ministry’s objection

The Union home ministry said in a letter to the state government that allowing opening of workshops such as barber shops, restaurants, book stores; opening of MSMEs in municipal limits; allowing bus travel in cities and town for short distance (upto 60km), two passengers in back seat of a four wheeler and pillion riding on scooters amounted to dilution of its lockdown guidelines.

In a letter to the Kerala government, the home ministry said the state government on April 17 had circulated revised guidelines for lockdown measures which allowed opening of activities which were prohibited in the Centre’s consolidated revised guidelines issued on April 15.

This is what the April 15 guidelines say regarding the violations the Centre has pointed out:

Buses for public transport would be prohibited till the end of lockdown on May 3.

Services provided by by self-employed person, eg: electricians, IT repairs, plumbers, carpenters etc would be allowed from April 20.

Construction work and industrials projects including MSMEs in rural areas would be allowed from April 20

Private vehicles could be used for emergency services and for procuring essential commodities. Only one passenger would be permitted in the backseat of a four-wheeler and only the driver would be permitted in case of two wheelers.

The Centre had also on Sunday written to all states saying that the violation of lockdown measures posed serious health hazard to public and risked spread of COVID-19

In its letter to chief secretaries of the states on Sunday, the home ministry urged the states and Union Territories “to ensure strict compliance and implementation of revised consolidated guidelines on lockdown measures without any dilution.”