Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kerala cross 500, fresh cases demonstrate threat of returning Malayalis

COVID-19 in Kerala

The declaration of three fresh cases on Tuesday could be a sign of what could be in store for Kerala after it had opened its inter-state borders to let in Malaylis stuck in other parts of the country.

The three new cases are in Wayanad, and are primary contacts of a truck driver who had returned from Chennai's COVID-19 hotspot Koyambedu market on April 26 and was tested positive on April 29.

The 52-year-old driver was intercepted at the border, and since he was coming from a hotspot like Koyambedu market, his sample was taken for testing. The man did not show any symptoms like cold or fever and so was allowed to return home. On the third day of his return, his sample was declared positive. The man is still asymptomatic, but has till now passed on the virus to three.

“This tells us that we should be extra careful with the people now returning from other states. Even a person who looks strong and healthy on the outside could be carrying the virus,” said Sobha Rajan, the deputy chairperson of Mananthavady taluk, the only area designated as 'red zone' in Wayanad district. As it stands, Kerala has not altered its approach to Malayalis returning from other states. Those without symptoms will be allowed to quarantine themselves in their homes.

Missing detail and quarantine

After the driver tested positive, the Health officials called up the driver's house and insisted that the driver be isolated in a separate room, and asked the rest to keep away from him. The other family members were also told not to venture outside their homes, and to observe strict home quarantine.

“The family members merely said yes to what the health officials said but failed to share a very important piece of information: that their house had only one room and a kitchen and that the five-member family lived cramped in this single-room house,” Sobha said.

Official protocol is that families that did not have proper home quarantine facilities would be shifted to government-run isolation homes. Neither the Health officials asked nor the family intimate the officials about the cramped nature of their dwelling.

On Tuesday, the driver's wife and mother have tested positive. The son of the man's co-driver has also tested positive; the co-driver's sample but came up negative.

Worryingly, it has now come to light that the driver's family was not cautious. “During the last few days, after the man was declared positive, the women had gone to a private bank and a cooperative bank, and had also visited a fancy shop, aluminium shop and a furniture mart. We now have information that the daughter had visited a goldsmith to get her bracelet mended,” Sobha said.

Kerala crosses 500 mark

With the three new cases, the total confirmed cases in Kerala has crossed the 500 mark. After remaining frozen at 499 for two consecutive days, it is now 502. After a day of 61 recoveries, a record, Kerala did not have even a single cured patient on Tuesday. The number of active cases, therefore, is 37.

Since the three new cases are primary contacts of a man already declared positive, no new hotspots have been declared. The number of hotspots in Kerala remains 84.

Sample worries

Though the numbers are clearly on the wane, the results of nearly 550 samples taken from high-risk groups like healthcare workers, and those with high social exposure like policemen and politicians are yet to come.

Besides, some 35 samples sent for revalidation, too, has not yet been declared.

However, the abundant caution observed by Kerala is reflected in the number of people kept under observation even at a time when the active cases have dwindled. Though the number of people under observation, in homes and hospitals, fell quite dizzyingly since the first week of April, an indication of easing concern, Kerala has kept the number under observation largely constant for nearly a fortnight. If it was 20,773 on April 28, it is 21,342 on Tuesday.

Those under treatment are from the following districts: Kannur (18), Kottayam (6), Wayanad (4), Kollam (3), Kasaragod (3), Pathanamthitta (1), Idukki (1), and Palakkad (1).

Important points from chief minister's press meet:

• Currently, Kerala has 45,000 PCR testing kits. Government has ordered more kits.

• 1,50,040 Keralites from other Indian states have registered with the NORKA website. Government has issued 25,410 passes for them. 3,363 persons reached the state till Tuesday afternoon.

• The government has identified 10 Indian districts that reported highest number of COVID-19 cases. Those coming from these places should stay in government's quarantine centres for seven days.

• 14,896 migrant labourers have gone back to their states. Three trains carrying migrant labourers left Kerala on Tuesday.

• Only emergency travel will be allowed between 7pm to 7am

• No travel passes will be issued to containment zones

• Government has allowed construction activities in the state

• Government will appoint 980 temporary doctors on three-month contract to strengthen the fight against COVID-19.

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