Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has time and again sought to drive home the point that complacency cannot be afforded despite a seemingly better show.
Having put up an impressive fight against Covid-19, curing over 400 patients, the Kerala government however doesn’t want to lower the guard in its battle against the “invisible enemy,” even as 100 days have passed since the country reported its first case from the state.
The expected return of thousands of non-resident Keralites (NRKs) from various countries from Thursday has also given rise to anxiety, with the government keen that positive cases should not see a jump and seems to have readied its blueprint to tackle the possible huge arrivals. The state has been earning accolades from many quarters for the way it has dealt with the pandemic, but the government doesn’t want complacency to creep in.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has time and again sought to drive home the point that complacency cannot be afforded despite a seemingly better show. “We cannot say we have crossed the danger mark or that the danger of community spread no longer exists. We need to be very careful”, Vijayan had said. State Home Secretary Vishwas Mehta said: “the threat is not over. For the simple reason that till we get a vaccine, this (coronavirus) will continue all over the world…”
He also attributed the higher recovery–462 of the 499 patients Kerala have been discharged after treatment as of Monday–to much more “scientific manner” in which it has taken up its fight against the pandemic, which has claimed 1,694 lives in the country.
The state has been receiving plaudits for having seemingly “flattenened the curve” of COVID-19 cases and the “Kerala model” has also been debated, even in some international fora. “The recovery in Kerala is fast. We are hovering down. When compared to other states, the number of positive cases, deaths and those under surveillance are coming down in the state. No one is tackling the pandemic as scientifically as we are doing,” Mehta told PTI.
However, people need to be more careful and not be “irresponsible in dealing with the invisible enemy,” he said, while underlining the need to use masks and maintain social distancing. Asked if Kerala had flattened the curve, the state Nodal officer for infectious disease, including coronavirus, Dr Amar Fettle said it requires data for a longer period, apparently to come to a conclusion. ”
But overall, the curve has flattened. However, this is no time for relaxing. This is no time for lowering our guard. As there are news we have ‘flattened the curve’, people have started coming out in the open without using masks,” he said. Kerala has made wearing masks mandatory and has imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 for repeat offenders.
The lessons learnt during the outbreak of the 2018 Nipah virus, which had claimed 17 lives in Kozhikode and Malappuram, including that of a young nurse, came in handy for the state in getting battle ready to face COVID-19.
Health minister K K Shailaja has said Kerala began its preparations vis-a-vis Covid-19 when reports emerged of its outbreak in the epicentre Chinese city of Wuhan in December last. Besides the first patient, two other medicos from the state who also studied in Wuhan, tested positive for the virus early this year. All of them had been cured and discharged in February.
The state had many medical students studying in Wuhan and knew that they would be returning. One among the returnees was the country’s first case of the infection. Two others from Wuhan University, hailing from Alappuzha and Kasaragod, also subsequently tested positive for the virus. All three were cured and discharged in February.
There was a spike in infections since March 20 when 37 cases were detected and the graph peaked on April 8 with 259 cases after which therehas been a downward trend.
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The second wave of infections hit Kerala on March 8 when a three-member family in Pathanamthitta arrived from Italy and tested positive, along with two of their close relatives. Subsequently, four others, including nonagenarian Thomas and his wife Mariyamma (88),the parents of Moncy who had returned along with his wife and son from Italy, also contracted the virus.
All of them were cured and discharged later. The elderly couple’s recovery was described by experts as the “rarest of rare” since high mortality rate is generally seen in older people globally due to the infection. There was a spike in infections since March 20 and the graph peaked on April 8 with 259 cases after which there has been a downward trend. Three fatalities have been reported so far, two of them being aged over 65 years of age and having various other health issues.
The other was a four month old baby girl. Fettle, who was a vital part of the state machinery in fighting the Nipah virus, said social distancing and use of masks is a necessity to fight the pandemic and people must ensure they wear it the moment they step out of their houses. Asked how the state was fighting the virus when compared to other states, Mehta said it “is much much ahead.”
However, in a cause of concern, many who were asymptomatic are among those who tested positive later and the health authorities are cluless about the source of their infection. With Non-Resident Keralites (NRK) who are expected to arrive in the state from various countries from May 7, the state is waiting with bated breath, hoping positive cases will not see a jump. So far 4.27 lakh Keralites stranded in various countries, including over 9,000 pregnant women, have registered with the Non Resident Keralites Affairs’ (NORKA) online portal.
About a lakh from other states have also registered for their return. Those with expired visiting visas, the aged, pregnant women and critically ill are among the large numbers of people who are waiting to return.
“Around 27,000 institutitions, including hotels, resorts, hostels, schools, lodges, stadiums and even auditoriums have been identified where we can accommodate around 10 lakh people. Space has been found,” Mehta said.
Meanwhile, over 2,100 expatriates from Kerala in Gulf countries are expected to be airlifted on May 7 and extensive preparations are underway at the Kochi international airport to receive them. Exit social distancing norms and a three phased dis-infestation at the Cochin International Airport Limited are some of them, said a spokesman.
Checking temperature of arriving passengers will be undertaken, while the process of installing thermal scanners at the arrival area is on. “Entire synthetic/textile wrapped furniture were replaced with temporary plastic chairs,” the spokesman added.