Kerala’s Covid-19 test positivity rate (TPR) rose to 15.53% on Thursday after 7,789 new cases were added to the pandemic’s tally, latest statistics released by the state health ministry show.

The national TPR is 8.2% while Kerala’s is almost double of it. With 23 fatalities on Thursday, the death toll in the state went up to 1,089.

Though fresh cases of Covid-19 are going up sharply the state’s mortality rate is lowest in the country at 0.34% against the national average of 1.6%, said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

“We have managed to contain the death rate considerably. That shows the strength of our health system. We are taking all steps to lower the caseload,” he said.

The CM acknowledged that infection among children and elderly was really worrying.

But he rejected reports that most of the hospitals were facing shortage of beds and ventilators. “Such ill-founded reports will only trigger panic. We are monitoring the situation well,” he said.

With 7789 fresh cases, Kerala’s Covid-19 tally stood at 3,17,929 out of which 2,15,419 have recovered. There are now 94,517 active cases in the state. Two districts, Kozhikkode and Ernakulam have reported more than 1200 cases.

The CM said Sabarimala hill temple will be opened for monthly pooja on Friday and strict curbs will be in force. He said devotees with Covid-negative certificate and in proper health condition will be allowed to trek to the hilltop. Since doctors have warned that masks will hinder proper breathing during steep trekking, Vijayan said masks will not be made mandatory but social distancing will be in force.

Vijayan also said houseboats will also be allowed to operate from Sunday with restrictions. The tourism industry had taken a big hit during the lockdown and many operators said they need funding to bounce back.

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