New Delhi: The Kerala government has promulgated an ordinance to give the state government several extraordinary powers to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, including restrictions on essential services and the introduction of a two-year imprisonment penalty.
The Epidemic Diseases Ordinance 2020 was passed Friday “to unify and consolidate laws relating to the regulation and prevention of epidemic diseases”.
Section 4 of the ordinance allows the Pinarayi Vijayan government to take special measures and frame regulations to tackle an epidemic disease. This includes the power to restrict essential services as well, including media, banking, healthcare, etc.
The provision allows it to “restrict duration of services in essential or emergency services such as banks, media, health care, food supply, electricity, water, fuel, etc.”
Besides this, the ordinance gives several other wide-ranging powers to the state government. For instance, it allows the government to ban gatherings; inspect those who travel to the state; seal state borders; restrict public and private transport; prescribe social distancing norms; and restrict working of government and private offices, educational institutions, shops, factories, etc.
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Two years penalty
Up until now, several states were relying on the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 to introduce regulations to tackle Covid-19. For instance, the Himachal Pradesh government has announced The Delhi government announced The Delhi Epidemic Diseases COVID–19 Regulations, 2020, and the Government of Maharashtra announced The Maharashtra COVID–19 Regulations, 2020.
Kerala government had also issued the Kerala Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 on 21 March.
However, the state government has now promulgated this ordinance, which defines an ‘epidemic disease’ as “any disease declared as epidemic diseases by a notification” published by the Kerala government.
The ordinance also prescribes a two-year imprisonment penalty, with or without fine up to Rs 10,000. This is as against the penalty under the 1897 law, which prescribed imprisonment up to 6 months.
First coronavirus death in Kerala
Kerala reported its first coronavirus death Saturday after a 69-year-old man being treated for Covid-19 died at Ernakulam Medical College Hospital.
The man had been in an isolation ward since 22 March, after his return from Dubai. He was admitted with symptoms of pneumonia and was suffering from heart disease and high blood pressure. He later tested positive for Covid-19.
The state has so far reported over 170 coronavirus cases.