THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As the state witnesses a huge spike in daily Covid-19 cases, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has blamed it on the mass demonstrations. Briefing the media here on Tuesday, the CM said despite repeated warnings that crowds could cause a surge in cases, the Opposition parties ignored the same and organised protests, sometimes resulting in altercation with the police. As a result, 101 police personnel have got infected so far after handling the protesters, he said.
“Crowding is one of the major factors that cause transmission of the virus. This has been highlighted by agencies like the World Health Organisation, but the Opposition parties in the state didn’t take it at face value and were organising protests. They were indeed creating a perfect setting for the virus to spread,” said the CM. The police personnel infected in the line of duty include one deputy superintendent of police, one inspector, 12 sub-inspectors, eight assistant sub-inspectors, eight senior civil police officers and 71 civil police officers. In addition, 164 primary contacts of these personnel have been identified and 171 others put under surveillance.
“The police force is in the forefront of the Covid-19 battle. The political parties that carry on with this reckless act should think whether this is how they should treat the force for their selfless service. They are also humans and every human life is precious,” Pinarayi said.Asked whether the government will go for stringent measures to control the protests, the CM said it rests with the political parties to behave responsibly. “It is usually considered that political parties operate with their social obligation in mind. I am optimistic that the Opposition parties will take a stand that they will protect the society from falling into the grip of this pandemic,” he added.
Meanwhile, health officials seem to be divided on whether protests have resulted in the sudden increase in the new cases. According to one section, gatherings could become super-spreader events. They say that crowded gatherings can contribute to the spread of the virus, especially when those involved shout or chant slogans. “The infection could happen through various means. It ranges from using water cannons to disperse the crowd to lathicharge or while shifting the protesters to police vans,” said an officer.
At the same time, citing the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests in the United States and reports that these didn’t result in a spurt in cases, another section said as the protests are staged in open-air settings, the risk of virus transmission is less than in enclosed settings. However, they say that proper wearing of facemasks is decisive in reducing the risk of spread and severity of illness.