The situation in Pothencode panchayat in Thiruvannathapuram, which had declared a complete shutdown after Abdul Azeez's death on March 31, is turning out to be even more baffling. The district administration has still not been able to trace back to the origin of Azeez's infection but, giving them an unwelcome jolt, a new positive case, apparently unrelated to Azeez, has been revealed in the very same ward on April 1.
A 30-year-old man in Vavara Ambalam ward, where Azeez lived, had tested positive on April 1. Two of his friends who had collected him from the Thiruvananthapuram airport and drove him home have now been identified and isolated.
These two men live quite close to Azeez's house and are said to be related to him. A worry is that these men revealed their travel history only after their friend turned positive. Nonetheless, they claim they have been confined to their homes ever since. Since they live a few metres away from Azeez's house, health authorities suspect that they could have been infected by Azeez, too.
However, this has still not solved the mystery of how Azeez got the infection.
The man who returned from Gulf landed in Thiruvananthapuram on March 22, the day international flights were banned. Azeez is said to have developed symptoms before this, by March 18, and in the succeeding days grew so weak that he could not get up from bed on March 23, the day he was rushed to a private Medical College in Venjarammood.
Obviously, the Gulf returnee, though he belongs to the same ward as Azeez, was not the person who had infected Azeez.
Meantime, tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran had found the complete shutdown in Pothencode an “over reaction”. On March 31, even shops selling essential goods and medicines were asked to close down. The minister wanted Pothencode subjected only to the normal lockdown restrictions, and ordered that other stifling conditions be removed.
Kadakampally seems to have been persuaded by the encouraging fact that close relatives of Azeez, including his daughter, had tested negative for COVID-19.
Following the minister's intervention, ration shops and medical shops in Pothencode opened on Thursday. The Vavara Ambalam ward councillor P Asha but is not certain whether it was time to open shops in the ward where a death and a fresh positive case have been reported.
“Now that one more positive case has been reported and another two immediate contacts have been identified I think the shutdown should continue at least till the results of the isolated men are published,” Asha told Onmanorama. Still, ration shops in the area were open on Thursday.
A complete shut down of Pothencode and neighbouring areas seems to have also been motivated by Azeez's extensive movements within the panchayat. He lived in Vavara Ambalam but travelled to Vengode on the other side of the panchayat for his regular juma prayers. The tea shop he frequents, and sits through for long periods, is in Vavara Ambalam but it is a shop where locals, especially those above 60, from neighboring wards like Kaluketty, Manjamala asnd Puliveedu also gather.