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Thiruvananthapuram, March 16, 2020
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday said three new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been reported in the state, taking the total to 24.
"Today, two cases have been reported from Malappurram and one in Kasargode -- all of them had arrived from Middle East. In all now, there are 12,740 people under observation - 12,470 are at their homes and 270 in various hospitals," he told media persons after the daily review meeting here.
Vijayan said the state has risen to the occasion and has been doing its best to see that things are under control, but on the other side, its economy has started to get affected.
"The tourism industry has taken a beating. The state Transport Department, on account of lesser number of people on the road, has been affected badly. So we have decided to relax the road tax payments for private buses. Demands have also come from various quarters that there will soon be a slowdown of the economic activities and hence loan repayments moratorium have to be in place," he said.
Vijayan also said that the state government has assured the Airports Authority of India of providing more facilities in the four airports of the state.
"We will help in setting up more counters at the airports, as health checks are required. All should see that airports should not be crowded by more people arriving to receive and see off passengers," he said.
Vijayan also asked civil society to ensure that they behave according to the present situations and should desist from crowding.
"Marriages should see not more than 100 people taking part, likewise all religious festivals, should happen in a modest way."
Even though three fresh cases have been reported, there has been no cases reported from districts like Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Ernakulam, where existing positive patients are under treatment.
But after a doctor tested coronavirus positive, 76 of his colleagues at the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) here have now been kept in isolation under medical observation.
The doctor, who had returned from Spain on March 1, tested positive on Sunday, but had reported for duty from March 2 onwards.
On March 8, he developed a sore throat and wore a mask while attending to his duties, including seeing patients on March 10 and 11.
On March 12, he was directed to be kept in isolation after Spain got included in the list of nations affected by Covid-19.
On March 14, he was made to undergo a repeat test for coronavirus, which came out positive on Sunday.
Following this, 43 doctors, 33 other staff and 20 patients were on Monday asked to be in isolation.
With these many professionals not available for duty, normal services at the premier institute are likely to be affected, even though the authorities are trying to ensure that the hospital functioning is smooth.
Another cause of concern in the whole matter is that Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan had held a meeting with departmental heads last week during which a few of these doctors kept under observation had participated.
SCTIMST is an institution of national importance under the Central government's Department of Science and Technology and offers expert treatment, especially in cardiology and neurology.
At Thrissur, a family which came from abroad, after all the prescribed tests, was cleared by the medical team , but they were humiliated and harassed when they reached their flat, by other flat members.
Following a complaint, the police arrested four people.
Meanwhile at Kozhikode, a person who was asked to be in self isolation was found out in the streets and the police has registered a case against him.
In a related development, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy wrote to Vijayan that in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, steps should be taken to shut down all the state-owned liquor retail outlets with immediate effect.
Liquor and beer in Kerala are sold only through state-owned retail outlets, most of which witness large queues. While people are advised to stay away from crowded places, the state government had said last week that it didn't intend to close down liquor outlets.
For fund-starved Kerala, the revenue earned from the sale of liquor and beer is one of the biggest sources of income, recording a turnover of Rs 14,504.67 crore in the last fiscal.
When Chandy was the Chief Minister in 2016, he had closed down about 700 bars to set the ball rolling for declaring prohibition by 2023. But after Vijayan took over in the same year, most of the closed bars were reopened.
Meanwhile, DC Books - a premier publishing house in the state, said that coronavirus patients in isolation will get free books to read and asked hospital administrators to get in touch with them.