Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lakshadweep islands had highly restricted movement of men and material from the mainland to the islands and vice versa from March to December 2020. Livelihood activities such as tourism, operation of mechanised sailing vessels and fish collection boats as well as construction activities were not allowed during this phase.
The Lakshadweep administration decided to open up the economy with a revised Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) which came into force on December 28, 2020, considering the genuine requirement of the local population in terms of livelihood activities, developmental requirements of the Administration and the prevailing MHA Guidelines during that time. As per the revised protocol, anyone who desires to come to the islands shall carry a negative test report of RT-PCR obtained 48 hours before the travel.
After this, some people had filed a petition in the Kerala High Court against the decision of the administration. However, a division Bench of the Kerala High Court, presided by the Chief Justice, upheld the SOP as issued by the Lakshadweep administration on December 28, 2020.
Following the revised SOP, livelihood activities resumed in the islands. Nine hundred and forty five tourists visited the islands in the five months since the SOP was revised. Mechanised sailing vessels operated in the islands 380 times. Consequently, construction activities started in the islands. Flight operations were also resumed. During this period, 35,170 people came from the mainland to the islands and the majority of them were the local population and 92,231 people travelled by ships and HSC within Lakshadweep islands.
The first Coid-19 positive case in Lakshadweep was reported on January 18, 2021, at Kavaratti island. As on April 5 this year, Lakshadweep had only 31 active cases in the islands. In fact, most of the cases in Lakshadweep came up during the second wave (May) which was the case all throughout the country and not immediately after the implementation of the revised SOP which was notified in December, 2020.
Ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, a large number of islanders visited Kerala for shopping, and Kerala was one of the worst affected states during the second wave, which correspondingly led to a rise in the number of cases in Lakshadweep. In addition, the high transmission rate in the second wave and increased movement of local people in the islands also contributed significantly to the rise of Covid-19 cases in the UT.
Meanwhile, the central government had provided 46,830 doses of Covishield vaccine in the month of January. During the holy month of Ramadan, when people were hesitant to receive the vaccine during day time, the healthcare and frontline workers of Lakshadweep administration worked during night time in order to safeguard and protect its citizens from the pandemic.
As a result of such continuous efforts, 80.78% of the eligible population is vaccinated as on June 17, 2021. In the last three months, 9,340 people were affected by the coronavirus and following the recommendations of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, their vaccinations were to be deferred by 3 months. If this fact is also considered, then the Lakshadweep administration has vaccinated 97.16% of its eligible citizens, which is the highest in the country.
At present, 399 active cases are in Lakshadweep and 90% of them are asymptomatic. There is a RT-PCR testing lab at Kavaratti and True-NAT and RAT testing facilities in all the ten inhabited islands. Till date 1,63,660 Covid-19 tests were conducted in Lakshadweep and testing per million is 2.33 million which is the highest in the world. Out of the 45 deaths reported in the islands, 40 people were above 60 with serious comorbid conditions.
The Lakshadweep administration had established a dedicated 30 bedded Covid-19 hospital at Kavaratti. This is in addition to the reserved beds which are being kept for Covid-19 patients in all the hospitals/CHCs across the islands. Also, 1,267 beds are there in the Front Line Treatment Centers and 127 doctors are now available in all the ten inhabited islands. There are 711 oxygen cylinders, 199 oxygen concentrators and 68 ventilators in Lakshadweep at present.
The central government has sanctioned two oxygen plants in Kavaratti and Agatti. Three more islands namely, Androth, Amini and Minicoy are getting three oxygen plants through CSR funds offered by corporate firms in Gujarat and Maharashtra, for which the works have already started. Thus in the five out of ten inhabited islands, the process to install oxygen plants will be completed by July 2021.
The Lakshadweep administration is also getting prepared for the third wave of pandemic if any that strikes in future and for any increase in the Covid-19 cases in the islands.