THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In continuing uptrend in COVID-19 cases since people started returning to the state, Kerala on Wednesday saw 24 people testing positive, taking the active cases to 161, prompting Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to sound an alarm that it was inching towards a "more serious situation".
Stringent measures would be needed in some places to halt the spread of the contagion, he said as the state's tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 666 and at least 74,000 people were under observation, 533 of them in various hospitals with 156 admissions on Wednesday alone.
The casesin the state began climbing since May 8 as more and more Keralites from abroad and neighbouring states began pouring in, he said.
"We are moving towards a more serious situation with each passing day. We have eased some restrictions. But in coming days we need to have stringent restrictions at certain regions. As Keralites from abroad and other states have started reaching the state, the number of patients are rising," Vijayan said.
Incidentally, his warning came on a day when public transport -- state-run KSRTC buses, autorickshaws and taxis -- were back on the roads in the state as the Left Front government eased COVID-19 lockdown norms after 54 days.
Of the 24 positive cases, all but one are returnees -- 12 from abroad and 11 from other states, including eight from Maharashtra where over 39,000 coronavirus cases have been registered.
Besides, three others were from neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where the cumulative tally was over 12,000.
One person from Kannur had been infected through contact, the Chief Minister said.
The active cases stood at 161 with five being discharged from hospitals, ending a drought of recoveries during the last three days.
On Wednesday, Palakkad reported seven cases, Malappuram four and Kannur three, Pathnamthitta, Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur reported two each.
Kasaragod, Kozhikode, Alappuzha and Ernakulam recorded a solitary case each.
The remaining examinations of Class X and XII, postponed due to the lockdown, would be conducted from May 26 to May 30 as decided earlier,Vijayan said.
"The decision was taken after the Centre's nod. The exams will take place from May 26. Necessary arrangements including transportation for children will be ensured. We will make sure that everyone will have the chance to write the exams", he said.
The Centre has asked the state to conduct the examinations after taking necessary precautions, including locating the centres outside containment zones.
Urging people coming to Kerala from other states and abroad to strictly follow the quarantine norms for the prescribed number of days, Vijayan said it was necessary to keep the virus at bay.
Those under observation must remain under 'room quarantine' and must not come into contact with the family members.
Only one family member should interact with the person under quarantine for the stipulated number of days, he said.
The state government has till now created 6,700 temporary posts in the health department, the Chief Minister said, adding this included the recently created 2,948 poststo tackle COVID-19 situation.
The newly appointed staff would be deployed in various first-line care centres, COVID care centres and COVID hospitals.
At least 3,396 incidents of people not wearing masks had been reported on Wednesday and cases were registered against 12 people for violating the quarantine protocol, he added.