Pinarayi Vijayan government to entrust COVID prevention tasks to the police

Published : August 04, 2020 11:43 IST

Barricades erected by the police at a containment zone at Nettoor in Kochi on July 19. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

The Kerala government has decided to entrust several key COVID-19 prevention and control tasks to the police, amidst fears of a dire situation developing in the State.

“The State will have to move immediately towards harsher control measures to contain the swift spread of COVID-19, especially through contacts,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.

COVID-19 caseload rose to 26,873 confirmed cases on August 3 in the State, with 11,484 of them being active cases. The recovery rate was 55.82 per cent. So far, 84 people have died, a dramatic increase given Kerala’s good record in containing the infection so far. COVID-19 clusters have developed in all districts.

So far, 174 COVID-19 clusters have been identified in the State. The Chief Minister said there was no sign of the virus spread abating in 51 clusters. While there is a decreasing trend in 57 clusters, the number of positive cases is increasing in 34 others. Containment measures have succeeded in 32 clusters.

‘Widespread complacency’

The Chief Minister said “people must remember with a feeling of guilt” that there had surely been “widespread complacency” in the State in recent days about following COVID control and prevention measures. Referring indirectly to the opposition-sponsored agitations in the State in the past weeks, the Chief Minister said this was because “some people through their actions spread the message to the people that the measures being adopted and the vigilance that the State was showing initially were not at all necessary and were all part of a PR exercise by the government”.

In a veiled but scathing attack against the opposition parties, on a day when the State Congress leaders launched their “Speak Up Kerala campaign” demanding Pinarayi Vijayan’s resignation (stating a number of reasons, among them the gold smuggling case), the Chief Minister said: “But where are we now? Could we have imagined such a serious situation developing in Kerala in the initial days when we were handling the pandemic with utmost vigil? Those who helped create such a situation will have to make a conscious effort to correct themselves.”

New norms

The Chief Minister said that from now on, the police would be in charge of demarcating containment zones, tracing primary and secondary contacts, monitoring those staying in quarantine and tracking down violators, strictly enforcing control measures within containment zones and social distancing and personal hygiene norms in public places.

District police chiefs have been put in charge of mapping containment zones as per revised norms, which will ensure stricter lockdown measures in specific areas where primary and secondary contacts are detected. The police will be responsible for controlling violators, including those who jump quarantine, or run away from hospitals, and those who go against prevention measures.

Police bike squads will make daily calls on people who are in home quarantine. A special squad under a sub-inspector in each area will be entrusted with tracing primary and secondary contacts within 24 hours, a task until now done by health inspectors under local bodies.

The Chief Minister said these responsibilities were being given to the police considering the seriousness of the emerging situation in the State.

Social distancing protocol will be strictly implemented with the help of the police outside containment zones as well. Police surveillance will also be increased in places where crowds gather, especially vegetable and fish markets, wedding and funeral venues and hyper markets.

Instead of entire wards in local bodies being declared as containment zones, areas where the primary and secondary contacts have been traced alone will be mapped and contained rigorously, and movement of people here will be prohibited. Facilities will be made with the support of neighbourhood shops to supply essential commodities within containment zones, the Chief Minister said.

“Naturally these new measures will pose difficulties for the people. But it is better to face some difficulties now rather than letting the disease to spread and cause large-scale loss of lives,” he said.

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