Kerala on Friday has reported 12 fresh cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, taking the total number of infected to 40 in the state so far. The state government has ordered to shut down government offices, clubs and worship places in Kasaragod to control the virus spread.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state will comply with the Janata Curfew suggested by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and shut all government transport on March 22.
The state government has also requested the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) for a special line of credit of Rs 2,000 crore under Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) at an interest rate of 2 per cent per year, less than the prevailing 3.9 per cent per annum.
Speaking to reporters after a review meeting, the chief minister shared the details of the meeting and positive cases. "Five cases were reported from Eranakulam and six from Kasaragod and one from Palakkad," Vijayan said. A total of 44,390 people are under observation in the state, of which 225 are hospitalIsed.
While the five positive cases in Eranakulam were identified as foreigners, at the airport, one person who came down at Karipur Airport travelled to Kozhikode and Kasaragod where he participated in various public events including a football match, visited clubs and even hosted an event at his own house.
"We have been requesting people not to take such activities. However, if it is going to create such large problems, we will have to take legal action," said Vijayan, reacting to the travel history of the infected. The chief minister added that two Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) are also under observation, whom one of the infected hugged and shook hands with.
While, all government offices in Kasaragod will be closed down for a week, worship places and clubs will be shut for two weeks and functioning of the shops will be restricted from 11 am to 5 pm. All exams across the State have also been cancelled. Vijayan said the state had to take tough measures and those who flout the instructions should be aware of the consequences of their deeds to the society.
Vijayan said that he has participated in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's video conference with state chief ministers for the first time, and has put forward various requests including support to the industry through financial reliefs. He will be writing a letter to the Prime Minister and communicate with the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman regarding the same, he added. State government will cooperate with Janata curfew and stop all government transports including Metro Rail services on Sunday. He sought the public to clean their premises during the day. For two weeks, government offices except for the essential services will be working on 50 per cent attendance on alternate days while the rest will join from home through e-office. Saturdays will be a holiday now. The alternate working day is for Class B, C and D officials while Class A employees should have to attend office.
Apart from the Rs 2,000 crore line of credit, the state government has also sought the Long Term Rural Credit Fund (LTRCF) be made available to the Kerala State Co-operative Bank in order to promote medium and long-term investment credit in Kerala
"In a special address to the State Level Bankers' Committee (SLBC) on March 17, 2020, I had asked the SLBC and major banks to take steps to reduce the interest burden in order to promote economic activities at the ground level, NABARD is an agency that can help banks reduce the cost of lending by providing enhanced refinance at this time of need. I believe that such a measure will promote the business objectives of NABARD and promote the rural economy at the same time," said Vijayan in a letter to NABARD Chairman Harsh Kumar Bhanwala.
The letter put forward various suggestions including that the refinance facility of NABARD needs to ease liquidity and provide room for additional cost adjustment in order to provide concessional loans to the borrowers. The special extended coverage of 100 per cent refinance now provided to north-eastern states may be extended to pandemic-affected States also.