Second COVID-19 death in Kerala: Search on for origin of infection; Pothencode shut

Representational image. Photo by Arun SANKAR / AFP

Since it is still not known who had infected Abdul Azeez, the second person in Kerala to die of COVID-19, it has been decided to completely shut down not just the whole of Pothencode grama panchayat but also panchayat and Corporation areas bordering Pothencode panchayat.

This means, apart from the 18 wards in Pothencode, areas that border Pothencode in wards like Vembayam, Nellanad (within which falls Santhigiri Ashram), Mangalapuram and Andoorkonam, have also been asked to shut down. Also Thiruvananthapuram Corporation areas that border Pothencode, like Kattayikonam, Ariyottukonam and Melemukku, will also shut down. People in these areas have been asked to strictly stay inside.

The intense lockdown decision was taken at an emergency meeting tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran had on Tuesday with the ward members and health workers in Pothencode area.

This closing down will be considerably more severe than the lockdown that is already in force in other parts of Kerala and the country. All outlets in Potencode and neghbouring areas selling even essential items - medical shops, provision stores, vegetable shops – have been asked to shut down.

The immediate plan is to enlist the services of the Fire and Rescue Department to thoroughly disinfect all public areas – mosques, markets, medical shops, tea shops, panchayat office, and bus stands – Azeez would have possibly passed through in the last few days. Therefore, it is important that everything remains shut.

A call centre each will be set up in all the 18 wards where people who think they had come in touch with Azeez could contact. These primary contacts have already been asked to quarantine themselves strictly inside a room.

If any of Azeez's contacts are unable to quarantine themselves in such a way, they just have to make a call and would be immediately shifted in an ambulance to a government-run isolation facility.

The virus might have been sown in Azeez by someone who had come to attend a funeral in Pothencode from some high-risk areas like Kasaragod. Health officials Onmanorama talked to said there was also the chance the index patient could be right in Pothencode itself, among the people who contact the call centres. “It could be a person who would be calling our call centres,” said Sobha, an Asha worker based in Karoor, one of the 18 wards in Pothencode. “The person would still be healthy because of his or her immunity, or might have just started to show symptoms,” she said.

A complete shut down of Pothencode and neighbouring areas seems to have also been motivated by Azeez's extensive movements within the panchayat. He lived in Vavara Ambalam but travelled to Vengode on the other side of the panchayat for his regular juma prayers. The tea shop he frequents, and sits through for long periods, is in Vavara Ambalam but it is a shop where locals, especially those above 60, from neighboring wards like Kaluketty, Manjamala and Puliveedu also gather.

Even wards in Pothencode that Azeez is not known to frequent cannot remain immune. Take Ayiroopara, for instance. But Azeez had taken part in a chitty auction held in Pothencode Town and conducted by a cooperative bank based in Ayiroopara. “Many farmers from Ayiroopara, too, could have attended this chitty auction,” said T Rajeev Kumar, Ayiroopara ward member.

Now that all shops are shut, it is not clear how locals would source their essential supplies. “Our hope is they might have already stocked up on what is required for at least a week yesterday itself,” Rajeev said. This intense shutdown period, with not a single shop open, is expected to last at least for a week.

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