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    Covid-19 cases rise to 112, police told to act tough

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    Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said that nine more positive coronavirus cases were registered, taking the state's total to 112 and warned police have been given absolute powers to take action against those who violate lockdown norms as threat of community spread looms large.

    "The total number of cases, so far has been 118 and six of them who were positive have turned negative and have been discharged. Today there are 76,542 people under observation, of which 532 are at various hospitals and the rest at their homes," he said.

    Vijayan said of the 118 cases, eight were foreign nationals, 91 had come/returned from foreign countries, and 19got it from primary contacts.

    In its meeting here on Wednesday, the Kerala cabinet has also passed the Kerala Epidemics Diseases Ordinance, which will give more powers to the authorities to tackle Covid-19.

    Vijayan said: "It's the primary responsibility of all people to see that they follow the guidelines and from now on, absolute powers are there for the police to act against law breakers. Everyone has to have a reason to venture out."

    He said that steps have been taken to see that not a single person in the state goes without food.

    "All families will be given rice and a kit of provisions. 35 kgs rice to the lower categories and 15 kgs to those who come in the higher category. Also we will ensure that not a single person in our state remains hungry. Community kitchens will function to see this happens. To help in this, local people will be inducted as volunteers," said Vijayan.

    "We will get in touch with leading suppliers of rice and essential commodities in the state to see on how fast we can prepare the kit of essential commodities and can be readied for distribution," he added.

    Meanwhile, the Chief Minister also noted that it is harvest time for paddy and this has to be done at the correct time.

    "Any delay in harvesting will cause ruin to the farmers and hence it has been decided to include this as an 'essential service'. With rains expected anytime, we have given authority to district authorities to see that they use machines for harvesting," said Vijayan.

    He also said that the Forest department will now be treated as an essential service.

    "Today we are getting offers from various quarters and the Catholic Church (Syro-Malabar Church) who have said they are ready to hand over their hospitals to the state government. From next week, we will give out Rs 1,218 crore as two months social welfare pensions to around 54 lakhs people. Steps will be taken to open 1,000 budget hotels (as announced in the budget) and they will also provide home delivery," he added.

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