For the fourth consecutive day, confirmed COVID-19 cases have not shown a worrisome rise.
If eight new cases were confirmed on April 5, Monday has seen 13 new cases, a marginal increase. Total confirmed cases in Kerala now is 327. Considering the 59 who had recovered by now and the two who had succumbed, COVID-19 patients under treatment in Kerala's hospitals are 266.
And for the second day running, the number of people under surveillance has shown a decline. From 1,71,355 on April 4, the number dropped quite dramatically to 1,58,617 on April 5. On April 5, an even lesser number, 1,52,804, is placed under surveillance. Of this, 776 are admitted to hospitals.
Testing of samples has also been ramped up. If on April 4, 5.5 per cent of samples of those quarantined in the state were tested, on Monday over 7 per cent of those under quarantine had been tested.
“It is clear that we have been able to contain the spread of the virus,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said during his customary sunset public briefing on Monday.
Of the 13 new cases confirmed on Monday, nine are from Kasaragod, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the district to 152. There are two in Malappuram and one each in Pathanamthitta and Kollam.
Once again the Chief Minister insisted that there were no signs of community transmission. Of the nine infected in Kasaragod, six had come from foreign countries, mostly the Gulf, and the remaining three are immediate contacts.
The lone Pathanamthitta person who tested positive had also come from outside.
The two confirmed cases in Malappuram and one in Kollam are Tablighi returnees, taking the total number of Tablighi attendees in Kerala who had tested positive to 13.
The Malappuram men had attended the Jamaat during March 11 and 12. After returning, the Malappuram district officials said they had observed self-quarantine. The chances of them infecting others are less, an official said. Both have now been shifted to Manjeri Medical College.
The Kollam resident who had tested positive had returned from Nizamuddin on March 24 and had been in home-quarantine. On April 1, he was shifted to a Corona Care Centre after it was found his house did not have the facilities necessary to undergo strict quarantine. Now, he has been admitted to Paripally Medical College.
Health officials say that fresh cases in the coming days will mostly be related to those who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat at Nizamudeen in Delhi.
“The possibility of infections in those people who had returned look less but we still have no idea about the Malayalis who have still not returned and are scattered in various parts of the country. It is also still not clear whether we have fully traced the primary contacts of the 157 attendees we had identified and quarantined,” a top health official said.
It is still not clear what strategy Kerala would adopt after April 14, when the lockdown period ends, but there are indications that there would be a slight loosening of restrictions even before the lockdown period ends.
Soon shops selling computer spare parts and mobiles would be allowed to be open at least once a week. It is now seen as necessary for a hassle-free 'work from home' arrangement that the government itself had advocated.
There are also plans to lift the ban on vehicle workshops. When the lockdown was declared, there were plans to consider workshops, too, as essential service. But it was decided to keep them shut to discourage travel.
Now, with COVID-19 fears gradually receding, the government is expected to soon issue orders allowing vehicle workshops to function. “Now if any vehicles run into some problems there is no way to get it repaired,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said. He said a decision on the computer, mobile and their accessory shops and also vehicle workshops would be taken soon.
The Task Force formed to recommend measures to lift the lockdown in a phased manner submitted its report to the Chief Minister on Monday.
However, strict lockdown measures would continue to exist in Kasaragod, which once again has shown an uncomfortable rise in fresh cases. It is for the tenth consecutive day the district has topped the list of new cases.
Even then, there is something to cheer for in Kasaragod. A state-of-the-art COVID Care Centre, with 100 beds and 10 ICUs, has begun functioning in the district from Monday. A team of 26 health workers from Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, doctors and paramedical staff, will coordinate activities, train staff and treat patients till the facility will function on its own.
Another 100 beds and 10 ICUs will come up in the second phase.
Since Kasaragod has the most number of people admitted to hospitals (221), a bit of private sector generosity could ease the pressure on the district administration. The TATA Group has decided to create quarantine facilities for 450 persons and also provide 750 isolation beds in Kasaragod.
Mahindra and Mahindra has promised 1000 protective shields for health workers.
Border dispute resolved
Some bonhomie was restored along the Kerala-Karnataka border, too. After resisting for quite too long, even after Central intervention and court orders, Karnataka has agreed to open its borders at Talapadi to allow seriously ill patients to access hospitals on its side of the border.
A medical team from Karnataka will be stationed at the Talapadi check post to verify the claims of patients attempting to cross the border. “These patients should go with a medical certificate and should also reveal which hospital they want to visit,” the Chief Minister said.
Even while welcoming the gesture, Pinarayi said Kerala had never been rigorous about the cross-border movement of patients. “We have made all arrangements for the smooth movement of patients living along the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu borders to visit hospitals in Wayanad,” the Chief Minister said. He said people living in Bairakuppa and Machur areas in Karnataka and Panthalloor and Gudallur in Tamil Nadu depend on hospitals in Wayanad. “Last day, 29 people from Bairakuppa and 44 from Tamil Nadu had visited hospitals in Wayanad,” he said.