The relatively low number of positive cases in Thiruvananthapuram district on Sunday could be highly deceptive. From a high of 129 on July 10, it dropped to 69 on July 11 and today it has fallen further to 40.
Of this, 30 are contact cases and at least 10 of them have no known source of infection. What could be viewed with relief is that only four new cases have been reported in the Poonthura-Manikkavilakom-Beemapally-Puthenpally cluster, a region where COVID-19 cases seemed to explode.
Health officials say this could be because of the low number of tests done in the area in the last two days. The non-cooperation protest staged by Poonthura residents on July 10 had put brakes on testing in the area. Nearly 1500 tests have been conducted in the area in the last eight days and over 280 have tested positive, a test positivity rate of 18 per cent.
What should be of concern is a silent new cluster, the Kottupuram cluster, developing adjacent to the Poonthura cluster. In the last three days, just 150-odd tests were done and 27 have been declared positive, a positivity rate similar to that of the Poonthura cluster. This suggests that if tests are scaled up, the number of positive cases could show as alarming a spike as in Poonthura.
Today alone, though only 50 tests were done in the area, there were nine positive cases in Kottupuram, Venganoor and Vizhinjam harbour wards put together.
The ward members Onmanorama talked to said they had been demanding more tests in the area. "We have found that unconnected people in these wards have been testing positive. It includes a female who had been in quarantine for 27 days, a kitchen maid who goes regularly to the city for work, fishermen who go out into the sea and have no links to Kumarichantha, and also workers linked to the Kumarichantha market," Kottapuram's CPI member Shini W said.
Shini also said that many in Kottapuram, Vizhnjam harbour and Venganoor wards, being predominantly fishing hamlets, constantly come into touch with those from Poonthura. "During the monsoon months, because the sea is rough, the fishermen in Poonthura travel to the Vizhinjam harbour for work. There they mingle closely with people from our wards. It is plain commonsense to believe that there are considerably more patients in these wards," she said.
She is also worried that fishing villages like Kottapuram are even more densely packed than Poonthura. "Poonthura area has more space unlike in Kottupuram where the population is high but the area is too cramped. Social distancing is not practically possible in these parts," she said.
Yet another development in the district is that half the new cases were found in areas outside the Corporation limits. And in half of these cases, there is no clue whatsoever about the origin of the infection. A 37-year-old female who tested positive in Vilappil panchayat, for instance, was an employee in a popular hypermarket at Thirumala. Another female was the receptionist of Saraswathy Hospital at Parassala.
Among those tested positive are a couple of Tamil Nadu natives whose whereabouts are completely unknown.