KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Thursday sought the stand of the state government on a plea seeking permission to re-open textile retail outlets and shops on all days of the week, saying a policy decision has to be taken on the issue.
Justice T R Ravi also asked the state government to furnish the details of the test positivity rate (TPR) based restrictions which have been imposed on opening of shops and retail outlets.
The court also observed that people were not following COVID appropriate behaviour, like maintaining social distancing, and the only positive was that they were wearing masks.
It also observed that crowd control measures of the state were not effective as overcrowding was being seen at various places.
The court was hearing a plea jointly moved by K Krishnan, the General Secretary of the Kerala Textiles and Garments Dealers Welfare Association, and Navvab Jaan, a garment shop owner, seeking relaxation of the restrictions imposed on opening of textile shops and retail outlets.
The petitioners, represented by senior advocate Jaju Babu, have sought permission to open their establishments on all days of the week and assured that they would comply with COVID-19 protocols.
During the hearing, the petitioners submitted that opening of the shops on all days of the week was necessary for the survival of the merchants and their staff.
The plea has been filed in the wake of recent protests by merchants in Kozhikode against the bar on opening their establishments as the area falls in category C having a test positivity rate of 10 to 15 per cent.
The shopkeepers had claimed their businesses have been shut for the last two months and now it was becoming difficult to survive.
Areas below TPR of 5 per cent are included in category A, those with 5 to 10 per cent are included in category B and areas with 10 to 15 per cent are included in category C and those above 15 per cent will be in category D.
The petition contended that the recent overcrowding in front of liquor shops throughout the state due to closure of bars and hotels "was a standing proof in support of the necessity to open up the shops instead of closing the same on alternate days to achieve COVID control".
The petitioners have also contended that when textile outlets are opened on alternate days, it is consistently seen that there was heavy crowding and long queues from the roads near the garment shops.
"The overcrowding and never ending queues defeat the control measures like social distancing and wearing of masks. It also creates congestion of vehicles and creates traffic jams across the cities and towns virtually defeating the COVID control measures," the petition claimed.
The counsel for the petitioners also told the court that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has convened a meeting to discuss the merchants' request to open their shops on all days of the week.
The lawyer representing the state government told the court that the restrictions were put in place based on the recommendations of an expert committee.
After hearing both sides, the court listed the matter for hearing on July 22.
Meanwhile, the state on Thursday recorded13,773 fresh COVID-19casespushing the total infection count to 31,17,083 while the number of people who have succumbed to thevirusrose to 15,025 with 87 more deaths.
As many as12,370people have been cured of the infection, taking the total recoveries to29.82 lakhand the number of activecasesin the state to 1,19,022, a state government release said.
In the last 24 hours, 1,25,742 samples were tested and the Test Positivity Rate (TPR) was found to be 10.95 per cent.
So far, 2.49 crore samples have been tested, it said.
Some of the worst affected districts in the state are Malappuram with 1867 cases, Kozhikode1674, Ernakulam 1517,Thrissur 1390 and Kollam 1100.
Of the newcases, 57 are health workers, 56 had come from outside the state and 13,043 were infected through contact with the source of contact being not clear in 617 cases, the release said.
There are currently 3,95,560 people under surveillance in various districts of the state.
Of these, 3,70,675 are in home or institutional quarantine and 24,885 in hospitals.