Kerala has introduced fresh norms to impose curbs amid a surge in the state’s Covid-19 test positivity rate to an all-time high of 40% on Thursday and the active caseload touching 2 lakh. This is the third time during the pandemic that Kerala is experimenting with fresh norms.
THE NEW NORMS
The government has divided the state’s 14 districts into three zones — A, B and C — factoring in the caseload at hospitals in each district. Kerala has also announced lockdown-like curbs over the next two Sundays and banned all non-essential services. With the introduction of the new norms, Kerala has scrapped the prevailing local-level curbs based on the weekly infection population ratio. Businesses, tourism, hotel and entertainment, and all means of livelihood will function following the general protocols and physical distancing measures, except on the upcoming two Sundays. The districts will be graded into three categories every Friday by the disaster management authority of each district, headed by the collector.
A district will be included in the A zone if its rate of hospital admission for Covid-19 patients doubles from the baseline date of January 1 and the rate of ICU admission exceeds 50%. Political, cultural, religious, weddings, and public functions in A-zone districts can be held with a maximum of 50 people. At present, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, and Kollam are in the A category.
A district will be included in the B zone if 10% of hospital admissions are for Covid-19 patients and ICU admissions for the virus infected double from January 1. All public events will be banned in B-zone districts. Religious events and rituals will be held online, while weddings and posthumous events will be allowed with 20 people. Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta, Idukki, Palakkad, and Wayanad have been included in the B category.
If more than 25% of the patients in hospitals in a district are Covid-19 patients, it will be included in the C zone. All public events will be banned in C-zone districts, while theatres, swimming pools, and gyms will also remain closed. Only students of final-year graduate and postgraduate programmes, and Class 10 and Class 12 will attend offline classes, while residential educational institutions will function inside bio-bubbles. There are no districts in the C zone at present.
RESTRICTIONS IN DISTRICTS OUTSIDE THE A, B, C ZONES
Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Malappuram, and Kottayam do not fit into the three zones. These districts will continue to follow the prevailing restrictions based on weekly infection population ratio.
WEEKLY INFECTION POPULATION RATIO
Kerala scrapped the practice of introducing restrictions in favour of containment zones at local-body level based on test positivity rate from August. The government introduced the weekly infection population ratio as a yardstick to keep life moving and livelihoods unaffected. Weekly infection population ratio is the total number of Covid-19 infections reported in a week, multiplied by 1,000 and divided by total population of the panchayat or urban ward. In panchayats/urban wards with a weekly infection population ratio of over 10, the government will impose special intensified stringent lockdown restrictions. The move to weekly infection population ratio had reduced the containment zone into local body wards/divisions instead of closing an entire region based on the weekly test positivity rate.
WEEKLY INFECTION POPULATION RATIO AND RESTRICTIONS
The introduction of weekly infection population ratio had considerably reduced the number of containment zones. When Kerala’s test positivity rate was 37% on January 19, six wards in five local bodies had containment zones — meaning only six wards had weekly infection population ratio above 10%. Not a single local body from Thiruvananthapuram, where the test positivity rate was 47% was included in the list of wards with weekly infection population ratio above 10.
TEST POSITIVITY RATE-BASED GRADING OF LOCAL BODIES
Local self-governing bodies were taken as the unit to implement restrictions and weekly test positivity rate in that local body area in a week was taken as the criterion. The number of tests conducted in a local body and the subsequent positive cases were factored into the grading of local bodies into A, B, C, and D categories.
Local bodies with test positivity rate below 5% were put in the A category, while those breaching the 15% cap were put in the D category. Daily life was allowed to function as normal in areas under A category, with the quantum of restrictions going up in B and C categories. In the D category regions, however, there were complete shutdowns.