LIFE AFTER COVID: THE NEW NORMAL

The government of Kerala has decided to reopen schools, colleges and movie theatres in the state starting from the first week of January 2021 as the final phase of unlocking process of the lockdown imposed due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Schools and colleges were among those institutions which were closed down earlier in March 2020 even before the lockdown was declared and movie theatres were closed down when the Prime Minister affirmed a nationwide lockdown on 24th March 2020.

The reopening of schools on 1st of January strictly adhering to the COVID 19 protocols is the initial step towards unlocking in the education sector. With limited hours of functioning, the classes for 10th and 12th standard would begin with a restricted number of students. Only 50 per cent of students will be allowed at a time and in schools having more than 300 students, the number will be reduced to 25 per cent as per directions from the General Education Department. The school management is supposed to ensure safety by providing masks, sanitisers, soap, digital thermometer etc in the institutions. Social distancing has to be maintained and if necessary, the classes will be conducted in shifts. Each school should constitute a COVID-19 cell, chaired by the principal or headmaster. The cell should meet once a week to review the situation.

The colleges will be reopened for final year graduates, postgraduates and research scholars with a limited number of students similar to schools. Students, teachers and other staff with COVID-19 symptoms and those in quarantine should complete the days stipulated by the Health Department. The premises of the institution, furniture, stationery, staff room, water tank, kitchen, canteen, laboratory, library, and toilets should be disinfected before reopening. Each student is ensured to have five class hours in college as the government is putting efforts to compensate for the time lost owing to the pandemic. Online classes will be continued for the rest of the students.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has announced that the movie theatres can function from the 5th of January 2021 which was shut down for almost a year though film shootings have resumed in the state by June 2020. All COVID 19 restrictions issued by the health department have to be followed with a 50 per cent occupancy of seats. Stringent measures will be taken against the theatres violating the prescribed protocols. Fifty per cent occupancy, staggered show timings, social distancing, thermal screening, adequate protection gear for the staff, and compulsorily providing phone numbers for “contact tracing” were some of the changes that were called for.

Even though we’ve entered into the final phase of unlocking, the government is directing adequate safety measures to prevent another wave of the pandemic. The tourism, entertainment, sports and education sectors have started their path back to normal. With the COVID 19 vaccine expected to be made available in the next two weeks, the government is expecting things to get normal in the coming months.