Thiruvanantapuram, July 11, 2020: It was only two days ago that Kerala reported more than 300 new cases of COVID-19 on a single day. On Friday, the number crossed 400, with 416 fresh cases. Of those under treatment, 112 have recovered.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “It is a day when the number of people infected through contact is more than the number of people coming from outside (the state). This is a dangerous situation where contact cases are increasing -- especially cases without known sources of infection. There is no community spread yet but super spread which is a step towards community spread has happened.”
Poonthura in Thiruvananthapuram was earlier identified as the first region to have ’super spreading’ – when the disease spreads from one person to many. The city corporation had gone into triple lockdown on Monday, owing to the increased cases of local transmission. On Friday, 129 new cases were reported from Thiruvananthapuram out of which 122 persons were infected through contact. The lockdown in Thiruvananthapuram will be extended by a week.
Pariraksha, a reverse quarantine action plan will be implemented in Poonthura, he said. However, the place was shaken by protests that the CM said were led by leaders of the opposition United Democratic Front.
Earlier on Friday, people of Poonthura got out on the street in protest against the restrictions that’s made life difficult for them. No physical distancing was observed and several people were without masks. Health Minister KK Shailaja called an urgent press meeting to address the dangers of such crowding, hinting at the possibility of a fake message used to provoke them.
CM Pinarayi said that people of Poonthura would not have taken to the street on their own unless they were instigated by troublemakers spreading fake campaigns. “There is another agenda to this and there is a hint that it is the opposition political leadership that’s behind this,” he said.
Among the misguiding messages was one on antigen testing being an ‘incorrect method’ that would give positive results to a person with a simple cold. CM Pinarayi explained that the coronavirus has two components – nuclic acid and protein – and while the PC-RTC test checked for the first, the antigen test detected the latter. “Both are equally sound tests. Antigen test would take only half an hour to give a result while the PCRTC test would take four to six hours. Even if you get better, the latter may still give positive result because of the presence of some virus part while the antigen test would turn out negative.”
The Chief Minister also spoke of the various protest strikes held against him, all of which didn’t follow COVID-19 precautions. “It is a cruel act to drown the place in the pandemic. People can protest but without putting lives at risk, pawning your own safety. Many of the protestors and their leaders were not wearing masks, not keeping distance from each other and engaged in tussles with the police while screaming and spitting. It is when the state is going through such a dangerous time that they are engaging in these acts,” he said.
CM Pinarayi said that testing would be ramped up in the state, with the drastic increase in the rate of spread in contact cases -- from 6.1% on June 30 to 20.64% on July 9.
“The increasing number of contact cases in proportion to the total number of cases leads to a dangerous situation. We are increasing the testing with the possibility of more people in the community getting infected. Two Covid hospitals are being set up in each district for the treatment of critically ill patients. Covid Firstline Care Centres are attached to Covid hospitals to treat the not so severely ill. Plans A, B and C have been prepared to ensure the treatment in collaboration with the private sector in case the number of patients increases exponentially,” he said.
Large community clusters
A cluster – more than 50 cases – that forms in a single location may lead to multiple clusters, spreading to larger areas and causing community spread. As of now, super spread has happened in Kerala, the CM said. “In a small densely populated state like Kerala, it will not take long for it to spread all over. It is time to realise that we are facing a major disaster”, the CM cautioned.
Five clusters were identified in Thiruvananthapuram, all of these centred in the Corporation. There is a large community cluster in three wards.
So far there have been two large community clusters in Kerala, the first was in Ponnani (in Malappuram district) and the second is in Thiruvananthapuram. Scientific cluster management strategies are being implemented in these places.