Kerala is clearly on the path to recovery. For the sixth consecutive day, fresh cases have not shown any marked increase. If April 7 had nine new cases, Wednesday too had only nine cases, taking the total number of confirmed cases in Kerala to 345.
Crucially, the number of people recovering is outpacing new cases. And for the second consecutive day, the number of active cases in Kerala has shown a decline.
The trend was first seen on April 7 when the number of active cases fell from 266 the previous day to 263. Today, the number has further dropped to 259. By now, 84 people who had tested positive had recovered and had been discharged.
The number of people under surveillance, too, has been showing a consistent dip for four days; from 1,71,355 on April 4, the number has plummeted to 1,40,474 today. The number of people isolated in hospitals, the high-risk cases, is also showing a gradual decline. From a high of 795 on April 6, this has come down to 749 on Wednesday.
Health officials feel this trend will keep up since the results of most suspect cases, especially foreign returnees and their immediate contacts, have been revealed.
Kasaragod, too, is not showing any spurt in cases. Today, just one fresh case was reported. Kannur had four and Alappuzha, which till now had only one case, had two. Besides Kasaragod, Thrissur and Pathanamthitta also had one each.
No sign of community transmission either
Once again, there is no proof of community transmission. Of the nine new cases today, four had come from foreign countries and two had participated in the Nizamuddin Tablighi Jammat. The remaining three are immediate contacts. None of the secondary contacts, people outside close family and friend circles, identified in any case has tested positive till now.
It can, therefore, be safely assumed that Kerala has managed to keep the virus confined within close-knit units - family, relatives or friends.
Longer incubation periods
However, the continued appearance of fresh cases, even if it is only a trickle, has provoked some worries. Most of the fresh cases are not Tablighi returnees, who were identified only in the last week of March, but people who had returned to Kerala from foreign countries by March 22, the day international flights were banned and were promptly isolated or quarantined.
For instance, the four new cases reported today were people who already came infected from foreign countries and had landed in Kerala either on March 22 or before. If the maximum incubation period or the time taken to show symptoms is 14 days, they should have developed symptoms at the most by April 3 or 4, and their results should have been revealed by April 6. More such cases are expected to turn positive in the coming days.
This means two things. One, these patients were shifted to hospital isolation very late, after their symptoms intensified, and then samples taken. There is nothing to worry here if these people had been in strict home quarantine.
However, the second possibility could prompt a major policy change. This is, the incubation period of these people could be longer than 14 days. Health minister K K Shylaja herself had flagged such a possibility. “We had found that some people had taken more than 14 days to exhibit symptoms,” Shylaja said.
This revelation could prompt authorities to insist on an extended quarantine of 28 days. Now it is 14 days.
Curious case of Malappuram faith healer
Yet another development that should have provided relief has provoked some fears, too. The faith healer in Malappuram's Keezhattur, who had returned from Saudi Arabia after taking part in the Umrah, has tested negative for COVID-19. The man was said to have had contacts with over 100 people stoking fears of a spurt in cases in Malappuram.
Though he has tested negative, district health officials have spotted something extraordinary. “He was infected but was asymptomatic all along. He never showed any symptoms,” a district health official said. This more or less confirms the suspicion among doctors that there are many in the community who, because of their high immunity levels, are carriers of the virus without showing symptoms. “This is dangerous as even these people are unaware they are infected. Thinking they are fine, these people go out to buy essential goods from shops and can easily come into contact with others during this lockdown period,” a health official said.
With two more Tablighi participants turning positive, the number of positive Tablighi returnees in Kerala has gone up to 15. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said 212 Tablighi participants are under close surveillance in Kerala. Three days ago, Tablighi members under surveillance were only 157. It is said that fearing social stigma, Tablighi participants are taking time to report their travel history.
It is said that since Tablighi participants had gone in big groups to Delhi, more Tablighi-related cases would crop up in the coming days. Take for instance the 45-year-old lady who tested positive in Malappuram on April 7.
She did not attend the Jamaat but she had gone with her husband to Nizamuddin on February 14. She and her husband, along with a family from Mambaram, took the Janashatabdi train to Thiruvananthapuram on February 12. And then, with another 12 families, they left to Delhi in another train.
She and her husband returned to Mumbai from Nizamuddin on February 20. They lived in Mumbai for nearly a month in Tablighi mosques and houses of friends. On March 23, she returned to Karipur in an Air India flight. From the airport, she was taken to her home in Kannamangalam in a taxi arranged by the police.
Though she has strictly followed quarantine norms, her husband, five children, two grandchildren, a son-in-law, and also the Mambaram family have been shifted to Manjeri Medical College. The samples of her husband and the Mambaram family are now expected to turn positive in the coming days.
Other major announcements from CM's press meet:
1. Optical stores in the State can open for a day.
2. Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (Norka) will open five COVID-19 help desks for Keralites living abroad.
3. From now on, students who are travelling abroad should register their names with with the Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (Norka).
4. Government will provide fertilisers and agriculture equipment to farmers in the state.
5. Government will provide compensation to farmers who incurred losses in the summer rain in the last few days.
6. People should not to throw used gloves and masks at public places.
7. Rs 1,000 monthly allowance will be distributed to 30,000 artists in the state as they do not have much work during lockdown.
8. Police should not seize vehicles of those who violate lockdown norms. They should only impose fine on the owners.
9. People should come forward to donate blood.
10. Government will consider online evaluation of examinations.
11. Strict action will be taken against those who spread fake news.