Mass gatherings trigger fears of fresh spike in cases

First leg of Chennithala’s yatra sees huge crowds in Kasaragod and Kannur, officials remain helpless in enforcing protocols at Santhwana Sparsam in Alappuzha

Thiruvananthapuram Amid the surge in COVID-19 cases, mass gatherings at two major events in the State are giving jitters to the police and the administration and raising concerns of a fresh spike.

The first leg of the Ayswarya Kerala Yatra led by Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala saw huge crowds milling around the Congress leader at several venues in Kasaragod and Kannur. Further south, the Santhwana Sparsam public grievance redressal adalat organised by the government also witnessed hundreds of people gathering at the venues in Alappuzha on Monday and Tuesday as officials remained helpless in enforcing the COVID protocols.

Social distancing, wearing of masks and use of hand sanitisers, all went for a toss at the two events. All along the course of the yatra, United Democratic Front supporters were seen jostling for space and taking photographs with leaders. Sectoral officers deployed by the Collectors in Kasaragod and Kannur could do little to enforce the protocols.

For punitive steps

Kasaragod District Medical Officer A.V. Ramdas said the failure to observe the protocols would have its implications, leading to a spike in cases. It is up to the police and district administration to take punitive steps.

Mr.Chennithala, however, said it was part of a negative campaign by the Left Democratic Front. “The government is organising mass programmes attended by Ministers, but they have a problem when the Congress takes out the yatra,” he said.

Mr.Chennithala attributed the increase in cases to the inefficiency of the government. The UDF, he said would go ahead with the yatra by following the protocols.

People gathered in large numbers at the venues of the Santhwana Sparsam adalat in Alappuzha and Edathua on Monday and Tuesday respectively. The adalats were attended by Ministers G.Sudhakaran, T.M. Thomas Isaac and P. Thilothaman. Warnings and advisories went unheeded. At Edathua, prior to the commencement of the adalat in the morning, Mr. Sudhakaran directed the people to follow the protocols.

Collector A. Alexander said chairs and other facilities were arranged in accordance with the guidelines. The number of counters for receiving petitions were increased, but people continued to assemble in huge numbers outside the hall.

Three Cs

Public health experts pointed out that unless we tighten the controls and ensure strict avoidance of the three Cs – confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded settings and close-contact settings – the disease transmission can get out of hand. “The epidemic curve’s rising trend had been evident and already the State is two weeks behind in launching control measures,” an expert said.

“It is not yet time to let go of the vigil because a chunk of the State’s population is still susceptible to COVID. Politicians should lead the way in maintaining the protocols and help get the message across to the public,” he added.

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