Thiruvananthapuram district, which has been topping the tally of fresh cases in Kerala for 21 days at a stretch, is finding it hard to contain the virus within critical containment zones. What it gained by way of containment in the initial clusters like Poonthura and Pulluvila is now being lost by way of reckless behaviour in nearby coastal zones like Kottapuram and Vizhnjam harbour.
For the second consecutive day, no positive cases were recorded in Poonthura, a ward where nearly 500 had tested positive till now and community transmission had taken place. Nearly, 300 had now recovered.
Karumkulam ward, which has coastal hotspots like Pulluvila and Kochuthura, is also witnessing a fall in cases. A panchayat that had only last week seen a test positivity rate of over 50 per cent had just seven cases in the last three days.
The recovery rate in the panchayat, like in Poonthura, is also high. After 1460 tests, 545 were found positive, and by now 353 had recovered.
In nearby Kottukal panchayat, which has coastal hotspots like Adimalathura and Ambalathumoola, also the virus threat seems to be gradually receding. The panchayat, which had detected 188 cases when 302 tests were done, had only seven cases in the last two days.
Perumathura coast, in Chirayinkeezh panchayat, that a few days back threatened to erupt into a new cluster looks virtually free of the virus.
On Tuesday, 30 tests were held and not one was positive. Ottapana coast, which lies adjacent to Perumathura, also has no cases. All the 17 cases in both these wards (Perumathura and Ottapana) in Chirayinkeezh have also recovered. At the moment, there are no active cases in the area.
Non-coastal areas that looked problematic like Balaramapuram appears to have made a dramatic recovery. 54 tests were held in the panchayat on Tuesday and none was positive; previous day 60 tests were done and six had tested positive.
Kattakkada, which was declared a large cluster, also showed relatively low viral activity. On Tuesday, 98 tests were held and only 10 were found positive. Even hen, Kattakada does not look as safe as Balaramapuram.
New grazing lands for virus
Nonetheless, the virus that looks tamed in Poonthura seems to go on an overdrive some 11 kilometres south in Kottapuram.
Besides Kottapuram, a sudden spike in virus activity has been found in four other wards near Poonthura: Venganoor, Mulloor, Vizhinjam and Harbour.
Of these, Kottapuram is the worst affected. "The virus spread in Kottapuram and the irresponsible behaviour of the locals have affected the neighbouring Venganoor ward and from there the virus is spreading to Kalliyur, which is close to the Corporation areas," a top health official said.
From Kottapuram, it looks like the virus is making a second foray into the capital city.
On Tuesday, when 63 tests were done in these five wards 27 were found positive, and 17 were from Kottapuram alone. Yesterday (August 3), 50 tests and were done and 12 were declared positive, and all of them were from Kottapuram.
Health workers in the area say the situation would turn worse. "Even educated people in Kottapuram couldn't care less," the health official said.
There is a reason why he sounded so resigned. On Tuesday, the Kottapuram Higher Secondary School held a food kit distribution function and parents thronged the premises as though, in the words of the health official, "it was a function organised to celebrate the end of COVID in Kottapuram".
"There was no social distancing, and people stood so close to each other with no care for what would clearly happen. We called up the school authorities and asked whether they had taken the permission of the circle inspector as the Police Department had taken over the control of COVID control activities from today (August 4). They had not. We quickly informed the police but by then the damage was done. We expect more cases in the coming days," the official said.
After the restrictions on fishing has been lifted recently, a wanton disregard for social distancing is found at the Vizhnjam harbour. "Fishermen from all over the coast come to the harbour and we fear a new outbreak anytime soon," the health official said. “We know they are desperate for work but they have to be more responsible,” he added.
New clusters are threatening to form when old ones continue to fester along the coast. Kadinamkulam panchayat, which has two hotspots in Marianad and Puhukurichy, had 14 cases when 34 tests were done on Tuesday. Nearby Anchuthengu had 31 cases when 50 tests were done on Tuesday; the Anchuthengu village has 293 confirmed cases and is showing no signs of recovery.