Only 7 new COVID-19 cases in Kerala, but govt fears uneasy rise ahead

Seven more test positive for COVID-19 in Kerala, total number rises to 241
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Thiruvananthapuram: On a day when Kerala recorded its second COVID-19 fatality, the number of new confirmed cases has kept relatively low at seven, taking the total number of active cases in Kerala to 215. The total number of confirmed cases, including those who had recovered, is 241.

Kasaragod district continues to top the list with two new cases, its total confirmed cases now is 109. The district also has the highest number of people isolated in hospitals, 163. Kannur and Malappuram districts have 108 and 103 people isolated in hospitals.

Thiruvananthapuram, too, had two new cases, and the total number of confirmed cases in the district has touched double figures (10). One confirmed case each had been reported from Kollam, Thrissur and Kannur.

The test results of four persons (two each from Pathanamthitta and Kannur) have been declared negative. This takes the total number of recovered to 24, and this includes a 93-year-old man and his 86-year-old wife.

No community spread yet

The day's confirmed cases also has no proof of community transmission. One had come from a foreign country and the remaining six are primary contacts - people who have got their infection from those who had come from high-risk countries.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, while giving out the numbers on Tuesday, too, ruled out community transmission at this stage. The death of Pothencode native Abdul Azeez on Tuesday has raised an alarm. It is still not clear how he got the infection. Was the virus sown in him by a silent carrier within the community? "It is true that he has been to many places but we have not noticed any signs of community spread," the Chief Minister said.

Lull before the surge

However, Tuesday's relief-inducing numbers are highly deceptive. The numbers are expected to show an uneasy surge in the coming days. Health officials said the districts to watch out for are Ernakulam and Thiruvananthapuram.

Ernakulam could show a surge because samples of nearly 40 people who had close contacts with a health worker, tested positive in the district, are expected on April 1.

In Thiruvananthapuram, there is the Abdul Azeez factor. The samples of those who had contacts with Azeez, even the initial list has somewhere close to 40 people including doctors and other health workers, are expected in the coming days.

Nizamuddin connection

Then, there are those who had participated in Tabligh-e-Jamaat meet held at the Nizamuddin centre in Delhi. The Delhi government had already quarantined 1,107 Delhiites who had attended religious congregation. Of them, 441 had been hospitalised with severe symptoms and the virus was confirmed in 24.

The chief minister said there were many in Kerala who had attended the Tabligh-e-Jamaat in Nizamuddin, Delhi, and also Malaysia.

"We need to check whether they have been infected," Pinarayi said.

Though he did not give out the figures, the chief minister said the government had already drawn up the district-wise list of those who had participated in the religious meet. Those who had attended the Jamaat and their close contacts have already been asked to take strict quarantine measures.

Given the intensity of the spread from Nizamuddin, health officials expect some samples taken from those who had been to Nizamuddin to turn positive. Other states like Telengana and Tamil Nadu have also traced some of their positive cases to the Nizamuddin religious conclave.

Since the religious meet was held in the fist week of March when social distancing was not enforced strictly, there is also the chance that many who had returned from Nizamuddin could have taken part in mass gatherings in various parts of Kerala.

Faster testing

The chief minister said that more samples were being tested. Till last week, only less than 400 samples could be tested a day. This has now soared to nearly 900.

It has also been decided to purchase 10 more PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) machines to further speed up testing. Seven of them have already arrived; two each will go to Kannur and Ernakulam medical colleges and one each to Kottayam, Manjeri and Kozhikode medical colleges. Now, tests are conducted in nine labs in Kerala.

Rapid tests are also expected to begin soon. The chief minister contradicted reports that the ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research) had not given Kerala approval for rapid tests. "It is not true. We have already received the approval," Pinarayi said.

Till now, 7,485 samples had been sent for testing and 6,381 of them have not shown any trace of the virus.

1.63 lakh under surveillance

On Tuesday, 1,63,129 persons are under surveillance in Kerala, up from 1,57,283 the previous day. Of this, 1,62,471 or more than 99 per cent are home-quarantined. The remaining 658, those considered high-risk, are isolated in hospitals.

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