On Friday, two relatively unaffected districts, Kollam and Palakkad, will see whether there will be any spurt in COVID-19 cases. And yet another less affected district, Idukki, is desperately fumbling for ways to trace the routes taken, said to be as confusing as an untidy paper scribble, by a political leader who had tested positive on March 26.
The results of supposedly high-risk samples from Kollam and Palakkad will be published on Friday. Kollam is the only district that has still not thrown up any positive results. However, on March 26, 68 foreigners, two of them Italians, who had been staying at Mata Amritanandamayi Math since the first week of March were shifted to a special isolation facility in the district. Reason: there were strong suspicion that the foreigners had violated quarantine protocols.
Kollam district collector B Abdul Nasar had gone on record saying it was likely that these foreigners had gone out and mingled with the locals and visited shops. No one in the group has, however, shown any symptoms.
Since the last of the foreigners in the group had arrived on March 7, which is 20 days ago, their asymptomatic status is a huge relief. Experts say COVID-19 symptoms would begin to show by around five days, and at the most, by 14 days. Therefore, it is near certain they are not positive. The Italians had come even earlier, on March 4.
Considering some of them are from high-risk countries, their serum samples have been sent for testing.
There is but yet another concern. On the same day, March 26, another 79 foreign nationals were picked up from various hotels, lodges and resorts in the district and removed to isolation wards. Nearly half of them are from high-risk countries like Spain, Italy and France.
They, too, have not shown any symptoms. But it is still not clear how many of them had been in the district for less than 14 days. Their samples, too, had been sent for testing, and the results are expected either Friday or Saturday.
Long distance blues
Palakkad district, which at the moment has only three confirmed cases, could either heave a sigh of relief or be shaken. The test result of the son of the man who had tested positive, the Karakkurissi native who had returned from Umrah with the infection, will be published on Friday. The son, a KSRTC conductor, had done his usual long-distance duties while his father was carrying the virus. The conductor's travels branched out from Palakkad to Coimbatore in the east and Thiruvananthapuram in the south. If his sample tests finally turn negative, there would be relief in Tamil Nadu, too.
The situation in Idukki, which too has only three confirmed cases, is perhaps more uncertain. The district authorities have no idea how to even begin mapping the travels of a political leader who had tested positive on March 26. Being a prominent labour leader of the Congress, the man is said to have travelled to many districts and had met MLAs and other top political leaders of all hues during the days before he developed conspicuous symptoms.
A top Idukki district official said the man had travelled south to Thiruvananthapuram to meet top political leaders. On March 10, he is said to have taken the Maveli Express to Thruvananthapuram from Aluva. He was in the capital on March 11, too. And on that day he, along with senior Congress leaders, had met ministers, MLAs and even top bureaucrats.
Many leaders who fear they have come into contact with him have gone on a self-imposed quarantine, a top Idukki distirct official said. Idukki MLA Roshy Augustine said he did not meet the leader when he came to the Assembly on March 11. “I was in my constituency then, attending a funeral. I heard he met some Congress leaders and also one or two ministers,” Roshy said. The man developed his first symptoms on March 15.
The Idukki MLA said it was not scary as the district administration was worried only about some 13 contacts of the man. These contacts could be the ones who were present in a mosque in Cheruthoni where the man had gone for prayers on March 20 when his symptoms had progressed.
It is also not clear how the man got seeded with the virus. He had not been to a foreign country in the recent past nor has he any close relatives or friends who had come from a foreign country. But being a person with widespread contacts he could have easily got the virus from some obscure person who had returned from a foreign country.
Before March 15, the day he felt the fever chills, the man was active in social and political circles as any high-energy politician. Besides the capital and various places within his own home district, the man had been to various places in Palakkad like Shornur, Sholayur and also to Perumbavur and Aluva in Ernakulam district.
It is said that he had participated in a strike organised at the Cheruvad tribal settlement on March 12. The district authorities have managed to trace his path to the tribal settlement.
The man is now isolated at Thodupuzha district hospital and his immediate family members are under surveillance.