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No let-up in Covid, Kerala yields to pressure, relaxes curbs for Bakrid

Amid consistently high Covid-19 cases in Kerala, the Pinarayi Vijayan government has given in to pressure and lifted lockdown restrictions for three days for celebration of Bakrid, which falls on July 21. Even in local bodies where the test positivity rate has been steadily above 15%, restrictions have been waived for a day on Monday to enable people to go for festival shopping.

Of 4.25-lakh active Covid cases in the country, Kerala accounts for 1.25 lakh. The state’s share in national daily cases has been consistently around 35%.

The Indian Medical Association criticised the government decision as “unwarranted and inappropriate at the time of a medical emergency”. “When many northern states like J&K, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal have stopped, with a constructive sense of public safety, the traditional and pilgrim yatras, it is unfortunate that the learned state of Kerala has taken these retrograde decisions,” it said.

The LDF government lifted the restrictions in the wake of mounting pressure from religious groups as well as traders’ organisations battered by the long Covid lockdown. The latter had threatened to resume business notwithstanding the curbs. Under the relaxed norms, textile, footwear, jewellery, home appliances and electronic shops, as well as all types of repairing shops, will remain open from July 18 to 20. Places of worship will also be opened for a maximum of 40 people.

Earlier, Muslim religious groups had asked the government to allow worshippers in mosques in compliance with Covid-19 norms.

While the Congress state unit didn’t comment on the matter, party national spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said if Kanwar Yatra was wrong, so were the relaxations for Bakrid. “Deplorable act by Kerala Govt to provide 3 days relaxations for Bakra eid celebrations especially because it’s one of the hotbeds for Covid-19 at present… If Kanwar Yatra is wrong, so is Bakra Eid public celebrations,” he tweeted.

The BJP asked why a concession had been made for Bakrid, after denying the same for Onam and Christmas.

However, the Kerala government recently also relaxed lockdown norms for the five-day monthly prayers at Sabarimala temple from July 16, following demands. On Sunday, the maximum number of devotees permitted for this was doubled from 5,000 to 10,000, though the temple management said it will continue to allow only those with online booking and with either an RT-PCR negative report or vaccination certificate.

Last Tuesday, the government had made an exception for the funeral of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church head Baselios Mar Thomas Paulose II, allowing 300 people to attend against the current limit of 20 for funerals or cremations.

In a statement Sunday, the IMA urged the Kerala government to immediately withdraw the order regarding Bakrid and enforce zero tolerance towards any Covid norm violations.

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