THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the threat of Covid spread looming large, district health authorities are expressing concern regarding the conduct of International Film Festival of Kerala. Many feel that IFFK’s 25th edition should have been postponed, considering the spike in positive cases and ongoing vaccination drives
As many as 2,500 delegates from Kollam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta and Thiruvananthapuram are expected to be a part of the 25th International Film Festival of Kerala being organised by the Kerala Chalachitra Academy. On Monday, the academy organised free antigen tests for delegates and volunteers. The District Medical Office (DMO) has deployed eight teams at Tagore theatre for this.
A senior official at the DMO expressed apprehension regarding the conduct of the festival. Though the authorities claim only 50 per cent of the audience would be allowed inside the theatre, the department is puzzled about the execution of this protocol. On Monday, the antigen registration counter at the Tagore theatre — the main venue of the IFFK — was quite crowded.
“It would be a task for the organisers to implement Covid-19 protocol throughout the festival. Hundreds of delegates sitting together inside a closed environment for hours would increase the risk. Crowd management had always been an impossible task during the film festival. The government should have withheld the festival for now,” said the official.
According to sources, the academy had requested antigen kits for delegates coming from other districts. But the DMO refused to spare any. This prompted the organisers to purchase antigen kits at a subsidised rate from the state government. In an effort to ensure the smooth and safe conduct of the festival, the organisers have constituted a sub-committee comprising representatives from the academy, corporation and health department.
Kamal, chairman, Kerala Chalachitra Academy, said organising such a festival in an organised manner is a challenge, but so far, things have been smooth. “The test positivity rate has been high in the state and hence we are anticipating positive cases during testing. The health authorities have made arrangements to transport and isolate the patients. Despite the pandemic threat, the response we have got is overwhelming. There is only a very negligible dip in the number of delegates. This year, however, the number of theatres is less,” he said.
The academy has opened seven counters at Tagore theatre to avoid crowding during the distribution of festival kits and passes. The health authorities are also concerned about delegates coming from other districts, who will be travelling back after taking antigen tests. “They will be coming down for the test, going back, and then returning on the day of the festival. Conducting antigen tests in such cases would be unscientific,” said a health official.
Many feel that the academy should have asked the delegates to come with Covid-19 negative certificates instead of organising antigen testing at the venue. “Each person has to spend a minimum of 40 minutes to one hour at Tagore Theatre to get tested and collect the festival kit and passes. This wait could have been avoided,” said a health official. Kamal said the academy wanted to offer free antigen tests for the delegates. “This will be more convenient for delegates as they can avoid a trip to a private or public lab. This is safer,” said Kamal.