Kerala task force recommends four-phase easing of lockdown; trains and planes to start last

Meanwhile, in the hope that the movement of trains and buses between states would be relaxed post April 14, people wishing to return to Kerala have been booking tickets on a massive scale. Seats on major trains and bus services have been filling up fast.

A task force of experts constituted by the Kerala government has recommended gradual, phase-by-phase relaxation of the Covid-19 lockdown measures post April 14, while keeping a close eye on the number of new infections in the state.

The 17-member task force headed by former chief secretary KM Abraham submitted the report to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Thiruvananthapuram Monday evening, based on which the state government is likely to formulate its response to the Centre on the subject of how and when the lockdown must be lifted. Follow LIVE Updates

Till Monday evening, Kerala reported 327 positive cases of coronavirus, out of which 59 have recovered and two succumbed to the infection. At present, 266 people are under treatment in isolation at hospitals across 13 of the 14 districts in the state.

A bulk of the patients belong to the northernmost Kasaragod district, where 128 persons have tested positive so far for novel coronavirus. The chief minister, briefing the press Monday, said the state had been successful in containing the outbreak and would go in for rapid testing models to detect community transmission of the virus.

A member of the task force, requesting not to be named, said the committee brainstormed collectively and recommended a host of measures that would ensure the continuation of the social distancing measures among the public in the event of the nationwide lock-down ending on April 14.

While hotspots like Kasaragod, Thiruvananthapuram and Kannur will continue to maintain tight vigil on public movement, other districts, reporting a fall in the number of cases, can relax the restrictions in a four-phase manner so that people in certain segments can go back to their usual way of life. The state currently has seven hotspot districts.

“For example, in the first phase, only buses will be allowed to operate, that too locally. In the second phase, inter-district movement of buses will be allowed. In the third phase, buses from outside the state can be allowed to come in. Trains and international flights can be allowed only in the last phase. Each phase would last about 15 days, ending in July,” the source said.

“With regard to the movement of private cars, an odd-even policy on the basis of their registration numbers can be implemented to limit the number of cars on the road. Sunday can be a car-free day. On buses, a policy of one person per seat should be implemented,” he added.

The committee also recommends streamlining of customers at shops and supermarkets, advising only one person per family to venture outside for groceries and other essential items. Traders dealing in non-essential sectors like jewellery and electronics can be allowed to open their businesses in the final stage when the scourge of the viral infection is seen to have largely subsided in the state.

The task force member said all of these recommendations will weigh heavily on the response from the Centre, which requested all states in the first place to submit recommendations on the nature of lock-down measures post April 14. In recent days, many states have asked the Centre to extend the national lock-down till the end of the month.

To the question of whether their recommendations were practical enough to ensure enforcement on the ground, the source replied, “Yes, that’s a valid question. The government says it has about two lakh volunteers who can help enforce the restrictions. But what is the nature of the command we can have on the volunteers? Will the public listen to the instructions of the volunteers? Those are the issues.”

Rush for tickets

Meanwhile, in the hope that the movement of trains and buses between states would be relaxed post April 14, people wishing to return to Kerala have been booking tickets on a massive scale. Seats on major trains and bus services have been filling up fast.

On the Bengaluru-Kanyakumari ‘Island’ Express, a popular overnight train between Kerala and the IT city, there’s a waiting list for seats in all classes from April 15 to 19. The rush for sleeper class tickets is the highest, with waiting list status hovering at 247/57 on April 15. On the same day, the 12777 train from Yeswantpur to Kochuveli and the 16315 Bengaluru-Kochuveli have waiting-list on tickets of all classes.

The ticket prices on private inter-state bus services post April 14 have also gone up considerably. For example, an AC ticket from Bengaluru to Ernakulam on an average weekday costs about Rs 1000-1200. But on April 15, a look at the major bus services shows tickets ranging between Rs 1600 and Rs 2300.

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