Thiruvananthapuram: Six more coronavirus cases were confirmed in Kerala on Tuesday, taking the total number of infected to 12 as the government decided to impose severe restrictions, including closure of educational institutions and cinema houses till the month end, in a bid to halt its further spread.
Announcing the latest cases at a media interaction here after a special cabinet meeting held to discuss the coronavirus situation, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said at least 1,116 people are under observation -- 149 in isolation wards of various hospitals and 967 under home quarantine.
The fresh cases are friends and relatives of Italy- returned couple and their son who had on Saturday tested positive for the deadly virus along with two other kin staying with them at their home in Rane in Pathanamthitta district, Health Minister K K Shailaja, who was also present, said.
The aged parents of the couple are among the six latest positive cases, she said.
Besides these 11, a three-year child who returned along with his parents from Italy, tested positive in Kochi on Monday.
Kerala has been hit by the second round of coronavirus cases after the country's first three positive cases in the state were successfully cured and discharged from hospitals last month.
Vijayan said schools and colleges and cinemas would remain closed in the state till March 31.
Classes from I to VII standards of all schools -- state, CBSE and ICSE boards -- will remain shut and examinations which have begun for them will be put on hold.
Examinations for class X, Plus Two and vocational higher secondary will however, continue. Final examinations of class eight and ninth also will proceed as usual.
Students under observation would be permitted to write examinations in a special room, the Chief Minister said.
Madrasas, aganwadis, tution classes and tutorials, will be closed till March 31 while drama theatres and art and cultural festivals should be avoided.
Temple and church festivals, which witnesses mass gatherings should be avoided, but rituals can be held in a low key manner, he said.
"This is a time when large number of festivals are held in Kerala in which scores of people participate. At this juncture, it will be harmful if such gatherings are held as it could help in spread of the virus," Vijayan said.
As the hill temple Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala will re- open on March 13, monthly poojas can be held, but at this juncture devotees should avoid darshan, Vijayan said.
Travancore Devaswom Board President N Vasu also said the rituals can be held inside the shrine.
The board has appealed to the devotees not to come to the shrine.
"The pilgrims will not be prevented from coming. But it is our appeal to them to desist from visiting the shrine due to the present circumstances", he added.
Among other restrictions, Vijayan said marriage rituals can be held, but large gathering of people should be avoided.
All government related functions, including those with ministers participation, have been postponed.
In all government offices, precautions will be taken against the spread of the coronavirus and sanitisers would be made available, the chief minister said.
Those coming from coronavirus affected countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea, should take precautions and steps to quarantine themselves in their homes or hotels.
District collectors have been instructed to provide families placed under home quarantine with all essential materials they require, Vijayan said.
Biometric punching at secretariat and all government offices and PSUs had been stopped till March 31. Private sector organisations should also take similar measure, the chief minister late said in a statement.
Meanwhile, students wearing masks appeared for SSLC examination in Pathnamthitta district.Sanisters were also provided to them.
Two students, under observation for the virus, appeared for the examination in a separate room at their school.
In Pathanamthitta, a man under observation for suspected coronavirus infection at the isolation ward of the district hospital fled, but was tracked and brought back within hours.
District collector P B Nooh said the man escaped from the general hospital, but was later tracked and brought back.
"If even a single person under observation goes out, it is a threat. This is a public hazard," he said.