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Kerala rolls back lockdown relaxations after Centre raises objections




Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan | Photo: Commons
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan | Photo: Commons

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Thiruvananthapuram: After the Centre took strong objection to Kerala easing certain COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, the state government on Monday decided not to allow plying of buses in cities, opening of restaurants and pillion riding on two-wheelers.

Day 1 of the relaxations, announced on Sunday, saw scores of people hitting the roads in their four-wheelers and two- wheelers in various parts of the state, including coronavirus hotspots, and confusions galore over the effect of the easing of the norms.

The Centre shot off a letter to Kerala government coming down heavily for its decision to allow opening of restaurants, bus travel in cities and opening of MSME industries in urban areas, saying it amounts to dilution of lockdown guidelines and also a Supreme Court observation.

After initially saying there was some “misunderstanding”, due to which the Centre had objected to the easing of the lockdown protocol for controlling coronavirus, the state government decided to rollback some of the relaxations and Chief Secretary Tom Jose asserted the Centre and the states “are in this fight (against coronavirus) together”.

The decision was taken at a meeting Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan held with Jose on Monday morning, official sources said.

“A formal order on the restrictions would be issued today itself. Buses would not be allowed to ply, restaurants will remain closed (for dine-in) and only parcel service (take away) would be allowed and barber shops will also remain shut”, the sources told PTI.

The Union Home Secretary in a letter to the state chief secretary objected to the additional relaxations, saying it amounted to “dilution”of lockdown guidelines issued on April 15 under the Disaster Management Act 2005.

It said Kerala had on April 17 circulated revised guidelines for lockdown measures which allowed opening of activities that are prohibited in the Centre’s consolidated guidelines issued on April 15 after the national lockdown was extended till May 3.

The state government had earlier decided to give relaxations in some of the COVID-19 restrictions in Green and Orange B zones. These included allowing private vehicles movement in an odd-even basis and dine-in services at hotels from Monday.

State Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran, admitted there was some “misunderstanding” due to which the centre had objected to relaxations.

“We have given relaxations in accordance with the Centre’s guidelines. I think there is some misunderstanding following which the centre has sought clarfication”, he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Secretary said he had spoken to the Union Home Secretary on Sunday night and the state would write to the Centre on the clarifications sought.

“I had a long chat with him last night. He said Kerala was ahead of other states (in COVID-19 treatment).If Kerala needs special relaxations, the secretary said the state can approach the Centre,” Jose said in an interaction with Editors of various media organisations in the state through video conference.

“We are in this fight together — the Centre and the states,” he said.

The day witnessed long queues of vehicles, including in hotspots, as the lockdown restrictions were eased in some places.

At Thiruvananthapuram-Kollam border at Kilimanoor, a long line of four-wheelers was seen this morning in violation of the restrictions despite inter-district travel not being allowed.

The state government had brought in certain relaxations in seven districts. But there was confusion over the implementation date.

The Left front government had colour-coded 14 districts of the state into four zones– Red, Green, Orange-A and Orange-B, for containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Idukki and Kottayam come under the Green zone, where no positive cases had been reported in the past 14 days, there was confusion on when the relaxations would come into effect.

Ministers in charge of the two districts said the relaxations would be effective from Monday while the District Collectors said it would be from Tuesday.

But vehicles in large numbers were seen on the roads in both districts.

Thiruvanthapuram district, Alappuzha, Palakkad, Wayanad and Thrissur, come under the Orange B zone where partial relaxations are allowed from Monday.

A late night government order said there are 88 hotspots, including Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi corporation areas, in the state and there would be no relaxations there.

Police used drones at Thiruvanantthapuram and Kochito check the lockdown violations.

Health minister, K K Shailaja, said just because there had been some relaxation people have come out in large numbers.

People should strictly follow social distancing and other norms to keep the virus at bay.

“If were are careful, we will not have to regret” , she said.

A police official said Thiruvananthapuram was a hotspot and they would take action against those coming out for no reason.

Also read: India is fighting Covid-19 like Liberia fought the Ebola outbreak


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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