With the number touching 95, Kerala has become the State with the most number of covid cases in the country.

Announcing the lockdown, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said section 144 has also been imposed in six districts: Kozhikode, Malappuram, Kannur, Wayanad, Ernakulam and Pathanamthitta.

Only essential services will be allowed to operate. These are: medical shops, hospitals, media organisations, fruit, provision and grocery shops, ATMs, banks, outlets and Beverage Corporation outlets. Shops will remain open from 7 am to 5 pm in the State except in Kasaragod where the shops will stay open from 11 am to 5 pm in view of the extremely serious situation prevailing in the district.

All educational institutions will remain closed till March 31. Public and private buses will not be allowed to operate. Only private vehicles, that too, only in emergency cases, will be permitted to ply.

The Government has decided to crack down harder on Kasaragod because of the utterly irresponsible behaviour of a few persons hailing from the district. The Police have decided to impound the passports of two persons who roamed around freely in violation of the guidelines issued by the Health Department to remain indoors.

The Chief Minister has also made it clear that strict action will be taken against violators of the guidelines. The time for appeals and requests, the CM said, is over. Hereafter, there will be on ly orders. Assembly of more than five persons is banned with the imposition of Section 144. Taxis and autorickshaws will be used only to procure essential goods and for emergency work.

It was heart-warming to note that the Janata curfew announced by the Prime Minister on Sunday, March 22, was total in the State.

True, the lockdown has been welcomed by one and all. But the fact remains that, perhaps, it has come a bit late. The growing perception is that the lockdown should have been declared at least a week back.

Similarly, India in general and Kerala in particular, should have banned all international flights at the end of the first week since the outbreak of the virus. Kerala, which tackled the situation well in the beginning, earning praise from national as well as international organisations like the UN and WHO, is paying a heavy price for the irresponsible and shocking behaviour of a few Overseas Keralites, who defied guidelines and caused the spread of the disease at an alarming rate.

Last but not the least, the Kerala government has done well in tackling the grave situation arising out of the outbreak of the Covid virus but for one blemish. The Government should have ordered the closure of all outlets of the Beverage Corporation selling liquor, too. Allowing Bev Co outlets to operate is to invite a disaster. Because with the bars closed, BevCo outlets will attract large number of tipplers and habitual drinkers. Regulating the flow of customers simply won’t work. What happened at a BevCo outlet in Vadakara in Kozhikode district a few days back will illustrate the point. As soon as the outlet was opened, more than 600 people were seen jostling for buying liquor. The incident necessitated a lathi-charge by the Police to disperse the unruly mob. There will be recurrence of such incident s throughout the state if BevCo outlets are allowed to operate.

The Kerala Government has been forewarned. The writing is there on the wall. Failure to act promptly and ensure closure of liquor outlets will be nothing short of a crime against humanity. (IPA Service)