A six-member central team that visited eight districts of Kerala has said that from 1 to 20 August, Kerala may witness around 4.6 lakh COVID-19 cases. This comes at a time when the state has begun celebrating the Onam festival.
Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala, falls in the month of Chingam, which usually falls in either in the month of August or September.
This year the festival will be celebrated on 21 August, with festivities starting from 12 August.
While the reopening of tourism and commencement of economic activities pose challenges, the state government has decided to enforce "special intensified stringent" lockdown restrictions in the areas where the infection rate is high.
Kerala Health Minister Veena George said that micro-containment and testing shall be intensified in areas where new cases are on the rise.
What are the new rules? What's allowed in Kerala and what's not? Here's everything we know.
What's allowed in Kerala?
According to the new guidelines, shops will be allowed to operate six days in a week. State Health Minister Veena George have said that the reason for opening up is the economic situation in the state.
What are the new timings for shops to remain open?
The timings have been increased and shops can now stay open from 7 am till 9 pm.
What is mandatory while stepping out for essential activities?
People who have not yet received a single dose of vaccine or do not have a negative RT-PCR test can only undertake certain essential activities and would be allowed inside shops, banks and other establishments. The state government has clarified that those who are yet to receive Covid-19 vaccination or cannot take the vaccine due to drug allergy or other ailments, can move out of their houses for essential activities.
What has been changed with respect to the weekend lockdown?
Weekend lockdown will only be imposed on Sundays now.
In consideration of the Independence Day and Onam rush, shops are allowed to function on 15 and 22 August, although these are Sundays.
What's not allowed in Kerala?
The government has urged the business establishments to make special arrangements to avoid crowding and ensure social distancing on their premises.
A maximum of 40 people can visit the places of worship if they're spacious, while only up to 20 people can attend weddings and funerals.
The practice of avoiding political, cultural and social gatherings, that can attract huge crowds, should be continued.
What is the current COVID situation in Kerala?
For the past nearly three months, Kerala has been under lockdown based on the test positivity rate, and all local bodies with a TPR above 15 percent were closed.
Incidentally, these new guidelines have come at a time when on Tuesday, 3 August, there were 42,625 new COVID cases in the country, of which Kerala reported 23,676 cases. Of 4,10,353 active cases, Kerala had 1,73,221 active cases.
Do I need an RT-PCR to travel to Kerala?
Yes, you need an RT-PCR if you're not fully vaccinated yet. Whereas, fully-vaccinated persons do not require an RT-PCR to enter the state.
Is intra-state travel allowed?
Yes, there are no restrictions for intra-state travel.
However, the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka has made the RT-PCR test with negative results mandatory for travellers from Kerala.
What is the virtual Onam programme?
The Kerala Tourism Minister P A Mohammed Riyas announced that the Tourism department will celebrate Onam virtually on a global level this year and promote tourism for later times. The event will be inaugurated on 14 August by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. A flower arrangement competition will be held and registration for the same has started online from 10 August. People can upload a picture of their flower arrangement called ‘pookkalam’ practiced especially during the festival to participate in the contest.
What are the guidelines for Sabarimala pilgrims?
For Sabarimala pilgrimage and darshan from 15 August, a maximum of 15,000 devotees per day will be permitted and virtual queue registration will continue for crowd management.