Kasaragod is COVID-free, but influx could touch off a third wave in Kerala

Coronavirus in Kerala
A pregnant woman evacuated from Maldives as part of Samudra Setu Programme under Vande Bharat Mission, undergoes temperature test as she comes out of the navy ship INS Jalashwa, at Cochin Port in Kochi, Sunday morning. Photo: PTI

It was a mixed bag for Kerala on Sunday. With the last remaining patient testing negative on Sunday, Kerala's most-affected district, Kasaragod, has been declared COVID-free. Palakkad, too, had its last patient cured on the day.

Now, eight districts in the state - Kasaragod, Kozhikode, Palakkad, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Thiruvananthapuram – have become free of the disease.

But the rumble of a third wave has now begun to sound near.

Three individuals who had returned from the Gulf as part of India's Vande Bharat evacuation mission - two in Thrissur and one in Malappuram - have tested positive. They arrived on May 7 from Abu Dhabi. With this, five Gulf returnees have tested positive so far.

The danger perception of returnees, therefore, will now be scaled up. Though most coming from foreign lands have to undergo mandatory institutional quarantine, pregnant women, children and the elderly are allowed to observe quarantine at home. They will now have to be put under tighter watch.

Secondary contact puzzle

Returnees from neighbouring states, too, seem potential virus spreaders.

Two persons who had tested positive in Wayanad on Sunday have contracted the virus from a truck driver who had returned from Koyambedu market in Chennai on April 29 and his primary contact, a youth of 20 who is the son of the truck's cleaner, both of whom had tested positive earlier.

The truck driver's wife and mother had also tested positive earlier. However, his co-driver/cleaner was negative, though his 20-year-old son tested positive.

One of the fresh cases in Wayanad on Sunday was the friend of the 20-year-old youth. The other was the wife of a cement retailer who had collected the sales bill from the truck driver on April 29. The husband who collected the bill from the driver had tested negative and the wife, who had no contact with the driver, has tested positive. The virus, in this case, has latched on to the secondary contact.

Health officials attribute the negative results of the cleaner and the cement retailer, both of whom had direct contact with the virus-carrier truck driver, to their high immunity.

Koyambedu connection

The third who had tested positive in Wayanad on Sunday was a man who had returned from Koyambedu market on May 7. The man worked in Koyambedu market and had arrived with a valid pass. Though he came from a hotspot, he was asked to quarantine himself at home.

He was driven home by his elder brother, and there was another relative with them who was dropped along the way in Kozhikode. The family of the elder brother and the relative who got down at Kozhikode have now been shifted to hospitals, and their samples taken.

Sources in Nenmeni panchayat, where the person tested positive and his brother live, said there were suspicions that the elder brother had recently sneaked into a liquor outlet in Tamil Nadu. “It is a blessing that the Supreme Court had ordered the closing down of TASMAC shops in Tamil Nadu,” a health official in Wayanad said.

The fresh case reported in Ernakulam is that of a five-year-old kid. The boy, along with his mother, had returned from Chennai and the mother had already tested positive and was under treatment at Kalamassery Medical College.

Eight COVID-free districts

Apart from the last patients in Kasaragod and Palakkad, two were cured in Kannur, too, on Sunday. Now, eight districts in Kerala - Kasaragod, Kozhikode, Palakkad, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Thiruvananthapuram - have been freed of the virus.

COVID-19 in Kerala
COVID-19 patients emerging from Gulf-returnees means the state's interventions and preventive measures have to be strengthened, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.

Kannur has only three active cases, like Kollam and Malappuram. Active cases in Wayanad, which till the start of May, was the least affected district in Kerala, have zoomed to seven, the highest in Kerala. Thrissur and Ernakulam have two cases each.

By now, over 95 per cent or 489 of the total confirmed cases of 512 have recovered. On Sunday, there are 20 active cases, up from 16 on May 8.

The number under observation has steadily gone up, indicating a step up in surveillance at the time of influx from foreign lands and other states. From 23,930 people under observation on May 9, the number has shot up to 26,712.

Fears of community transmission have also receded. Of the 3,815 samples taken from high-risk groups like healthcare workers and those with high social exposure like policemen and local body representatives, 3,525 or 92.3 per cent have shown negative results.

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