By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government’s decision not to impose night curfews and week-end lockdowns is a step in the right direction despite the surge in daily covid cases. It shows the State has learnt at least some lessons from past experience.
The Government has done well to listen to the voices of caution from health experts, who are of the firm opinion that night curfews and week-end lockdowns serve no purpose. What is important is to ensure that the recovery being made by the economy and the people does not suffer a setback which an imposition of night curfews and week-end lockdowns would cause. The economy is perking up after a long time; and the people are also picking the pieces of their lives, emerging from the severe restrictions that had oppressed their lives and source of livelihoods.
But there is an area where the Government should exercise utmost vigilance and exemplary restraint. It should enforce strict restrictions on political gatherings. The Government should not repeat the mistakes and lapses it made in the past. One of the main reasons for the alarming covid surge was the past failures to ensure covid-appropriate behavior on the part of the political parties. There should be no recurrence of that kind of folly.
Here the CPI(M) has a special responsibility. Being the ruling party, the party and the government headed by it should see that all political parties follow the pandemic protocol to the letter and spirit. And the CPI(M) must set an example by adhering to the covid protocol to the tee. This is the time when the CPI(M) is holding its district conferences in preparation for the Party Congress to be held in Kannur from April 6 to 10. The Government has rightly reduced the number of persons at marriages, funerals and social gatherings to a maximum of 50. That is a welcome step.
But the more important thing – where it slipped up when the second wave of covid surge took place – is to ensure that political parties stick to covid-appropriate behaviour. What is causing concern is the failure to restrict participation in political gatherings. For instance, attendance at the ongoing CPI(M) district conferences far exceeds the limit. At each of the party conferences, the attendance is at least 300 – five times more than the stipulated 50. The CPI(M) must take drastic steps to correct this anomaly. Otherwise, the party and the Government will be exposing themselves to the charge of adopting two sets of rules on covid-appropriate behaviour – one for the general public and one for the ruling party and other political parties. This must change, and the party must strictly enforce the covid protocol for the participants at the party’s district conferences. Remember, at least six more districts – Kasaragod, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Alappuzha, Kottayam and Thiruvananthapuram – are to witness CPI(M) conferences. Restrictions should not only be put in place but also seen to be imposed.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has, in his appeal to the people, rightly exhorted them to hold get-togethers, meetings and other group events on online as far as possible. The CM has also urged the public to wear masks and observe the physical distance to avert the possibility of more stringent pandemic control measures. The CM should order the organisers of the party’s district conferences to set an example of exemplary covid-appropriate behaviour. That will have a salutary effect on other parties and organisations. They will be compelled to follow that example. It will also take the wind out of the opposition’s propaganda sail.
Meanwhile, health experts have sounded a note of caution. They have rightly counselled restraint and advocated avoidance of panic reactions which will only alarm the people. As of now, the omicron infection is mild. But the situation could change. But hospital admission should be based only on clinical indications. A big slice of the omicron cases located in hospitals can well be shifted to home isolation. Only patients needing hospital care should be admitted. The State is now concentrating on international travellers paying no attention to inter-state travellers. That is not the right thing to do; that policy must be changed immediately. It may be mentioned that even when Delta wave was at its peak, 90 per cent of beds were occupied by persons who need not have been hospitalized at all.
Kerala has, in the meantime, administered a “precaution dose” of Covid-19 vaccine to 30, 895 persons on January 10, the day nationwide administration of the additional does was launched. Among them were 19, 549 health workers, 2,635 frontline workers and 8,711 senior citizens who have various co-morbidities. As on January 10, 2022, the State has also vaccinated more than one third of its child population – 35 per cent – in the age group of 15-18 years. The State’s active case pool has increased to 37, 736. Of this, only 6.3 per cent are now in hospitals. Among the districts, Thiruvananthapuram topped the list with 1,486 new cases, followed by Ernakulam(929), Kozhikode(561), Kottayam(441), Thrissur(389), Kannur(319), Kollam(311), Pathanamthitta(266), Malappuram(267), Alappuzha(264), Palakkad(222), Idukki(153), Kasaragod (116) and Wayanad(67) cases. (IPA Service)