Thiruvananthapuram: People should celebrate the coming Onam festival within their homes and use locally available flowers for the traditional floral carpet in view of the COVID-19 situation, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.

Participating in a video conference with the district collectors, police chiefs and medical officers, he said police should ensure people maintained social distancing when they go shopping for Onam, the harvest festival of the state, which falls on August 31 this year.

"The Onam celebrations this time should be limited inside the homes. The floral carpet should be made with locally available flowers as we cannot risk the spread of COVID-19 from flowers brought from other regions," Vijayan said.

He said the focus should be to stop the spread of the virus and reduce the death rate.

"There are some people who trivialise the current COVID-19 situation. We must not stand helplessly in front of them. The aim is to contain the number of cases and reduce the death rate. Precautionary measures should be location specific. As of now, we are able to control the deaths but that may not be the situation if the cases increase," he said.

In the meeting, also attended by health minister KK Shailaja, revenue minister E Chandrasekharan, AC Moideen, Vijayan asked the district authorities to create awareness in the society and to engage all the government staff to fight the pandemic.

He also gave directions to the police to strictly implement the quarantine protocol and the contact tracing of the patients to contain the spread of the virus.

"Police should ensure that social distancing is maintained by the people who go out for Onam shopping. No public celebrations should be allowed," Vijayan said.

The festival commemorates the return of mythical demon king Mahabali to see his beloved subjects at the beginning of 'Chingam', the first month of the Malayalam calendar.

The mythical ruler is traditionally welcomed with a carpet of flowers, popularly known as pookalam, in front of houses, and 'Onam Sadyas' (feasts) and the festival is celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm by people across communities.