Wednesday has dragged with it a long list of depressing facts. If it was felt the sudden spurt on April 21 was a fleeting anomaly, Wednesday has shattered the hope. There was only a marginal fall in confirmed cases and the figure was still in double digits: 11.
Though April 21 had 19 new cases, it also had 16 recoveries. Wednesday has just one recovery. Never has the number of cured gone below two this April, a month when recoveries demonstrated a miraculous buoyancy; April 10 had 27 recoveries and April 12, 36.
With just a single recovery on the day, the number of active cases that started to go down from April 6, as though in a wild downward slide, curved up for the first time. From 266 active cases on April 6, the number crashed down to 117 on April 21. But on Wednesday, active cases inched up to 127.
Kannur continues to top the list with seven turning positive, and three of them foreign returnees who had been in quarantine for 28 days, the maximum quarantine period for people from high-risk areas like the Gulf. One Kannur native declared positive is a house surgeon at Kozhikode Medical College who had returned from Delhi in the Nizamuddin Express. The other two who had tested positive in Kannur are immediate contacts of foreign returnees who had already tested positive.
Three health workers and a baby
One of the fresh cases, reported in Malappuram, is a four-month child. The child is said to be serious, is now in ventilator in Kozhikode Medical College. It is also not clear how the child got the infection as its mother or anyone else in the family have no recent travel history. It is now surmised that the child could have contracted the virus either from a visit to the hospital or from some asymptomatic carriers who had come to visit the child at home.
This has once again raised suspicions of community transmission.
Along with the child, a nurse who worked in a private hospital in Kozhikode, too, has tested positive. She is said to have attended to a Kozhikode-based foreign returnee who had gone to the private hospital for treatment. The man was declared positive on April 16. Three other nurses who had cared for the man were also quarantined but they have not tested positive. The nurse has not shown any symptoms and is said to be clinically stable.
The other Kozhikode native who tested positive is a house surgeon, who along with his friend had returned from Delhi in the Nizamuddin Express, unknowingly sharing a coach with Tablighi returnees.
In short, three health workers – two house surgeons and a nurse, turned positive on the day. Three healthcare workers who had fallen ill earlier, a nurse and two health inspectors, had recovered.
However, both the house surgeons and the nurse are asymptomatic. In fact, the house surgeons had even completed heir mandatory 28-day quarantine after it was found they had travelled with Tablighi returnees.
Trouble in Kottayam
And then Kottayam, which did not have a single positive case after March 24 and was deservedly placed in the green zone, recorded its first positive in nearly a month. However, sources said the lady who had tested positive had not entered Kottayam. She had landed in Delhi from Australia, and from there she travelled by road and the moment she entered Nedunkandam's Kambammettil in Idukki district she was intercepted and put in quarantine there.
Kottayam's peace was already in tatters when a vegetable-laden truck from Tamil Nadu had reached the Kottayam market. The truck driver, it was soon revealed, was the primary contact of the original driver of the truck who had tested positive in Palakkad on April 21.
All of a sudden, borders seem like Kerala's weak spot. The risk of throwing open the state's borders after May 3, when the rest of the country and world have still not come to terms with the virus, has become increasingly evident.
A Kulathupuzha native who had sneaked into Tamil Nadu in the first week of April tested positive on April 21. The Kollam district administration is frantically attempting to piece together a route map of the patient.
Two house surgeons who, on their return from Delhi by the middle of March had reportedly occupied the same coach as a group of Tablighi members, had tested positive in Kozhikode. Six doctors with whom they have had close contacts have also been asked to enter quarantine.
Now, even though there is a shortage of testing kits, it has been decided to test the samples of all house surgeons who are joining duty after vacationing outside Kerala.
Dangerous movement of essential goods
Even the movement of trucks carrying essential goods, considered so crucial to Kerala's survival during the lockdown, is emerging as a major threat. One of the four people to have tested positive in Palakkad on April 21 was a driver who transported vegetables from Dindigul in Tamil Nadu.
The driver got down at Palakkad, and after he had tested positive, it was revealed that the truck was taken to the Kottayam market by his co-driver. This suddenly raised the possibility of a fresh outbreak in Kottayam, a district that had been declared a green zone. The vegetable wholesale shop the co-driver served was promptly closed and 17 people – including the owner, the shop employees and the headload workers – were quickly identified and placed in quarantine.
Inaccuracies of made in China kits
The infection in the four-month child, with no known source, is once again a warning that there could be low-key community transmission in Kerala. Still, Kerala has not been able to begin rapid tests to sense community transmission as Indian Council of Medical Research had called a halt to the use of the antibody kits sourced from China. Kerala had also received over 20,000 kits.
Wherever used, these kits were highly unreliable. In Rajasthan, for example, when it was used to find antibodies in the blood samples of 168 persons confirmed with the virus, only nine samples showed the presence of antibodies.
Kasaragod continues to be the only bright spot. Of the 176 confirmed cases, 146 or 84.55 per cent had recovered.