Kerala celebrated Vishu under the lengthening shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday. The period also marked the second day of the Ramzan fast.
Malayalees observed Vishu and Ramzan in a relatively sombre fashion for the second consecutive year.
Citizens remained indoors mostly and restricted festivities to the confines of their homes.
Socialising seemed mainly over the telephone.
Families and friends caught up with each other largely on internet-based video call and conference platforms.
Crowded Iftar parties and packed Vishu feasts that marked celebrations in the bygone pre-COVID years seemed a distant memory.
Hectic shopping had characterised Vishu eve on Tuesday.
Leaders extend greetings
Kerala Governor Arif Muhammad Khan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala greeted Keralites on the occasion of Vishu and Ramzan.
Mosques organised prayers in a socially distant manner, with the faithful wearing masks. Temples restricted the number of devotees on Vishu day. Religious places of worship checked the body temperature of believers before allowing them inside.
The Kerala government has empowered district collectors to lock down localities with a high test positivity rate. Authorities would impose clampdowns, if required, at the local body ward level.
In a recent order, Kerala Chief Secretary Dr. V. P.Joy said District Magistrates “may impose additional restrictions under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code based on evidence with focus”. The prohibitory order would not extend beyond hotspots.
He said meetings should be held online “as far as possible”.
The administration has warned supermarkets against holding mega shopping events that attract large crowds.
It has ordered malls, theatres and auditoriums with centralised air condition to strictly restrict occupancy and ensure total adherence to the COVID-19 protocol, including thermal scanning of visitors at the entrance. The establishments should operate within 50% of their capacity.
The government has limited open-air and indoor gatherings to not more than 200 and 100 persons, respectively. It has banned communal feasting. However, organisers could supply guests with parcelled meals.
Municipal authorities issued notices to hotels requesting them to limit indoor dining to less than half the seating capacity. Customers should sit socially distanced and restaurants down shutters at 9 p.m.
District magistrates chaired meetings with traders, local communities, and other stakeholders to impose the pandemic prevention protocol via consensus as per the Chief Secretary’s direction.
Dr. Joy urged hotels, shops and supermarkets to promote home delivery. He ordered the Civil Supplies Corporation, Horticorp, KEPCO, Matsyafed and MILMA to develop a unified online/mobile platform for accepting orders and delivering the essentials directly home. An official said the government would further tighten restrictions if the infection curve did not show signs of flattening out.