From green to red, focus shifts to Kottayam and Idukki

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T’PURAM/KOTTAYAM/IDUKKI: From a happy green to cautious orange and worrying red zone, the turn for the worse for Kottayam and Idukki in a matter of days has caught the health department off guard. Both districts now have second and third largest numbers of Covid-19 cases in the state, behind only Kannur, which has 49 cases. On Monday, Kottayam and Idukki reported six and four Covid cases, taking the total tally to 17 and 14, respectively. Worryingly, the infected in the past two days included a doctor in Idukki and a male nurse in Kottayam.

While health authorities blamed the spike in Idukki on people from neighbouring states entering the district, in Kottayam, officials attributed the rise to the increase in the number of samples tested.“As long as people from neighbouring states enter Idukki, the number of positive Covid cases will keep rising. What authorities can do is to increase the surveillance at the border points to prevent unauthorised entry and to isolate those who cross over,” said Idukki district medical officer N Priya.

On April 16, the government had eased lockdown restrictions in the two central Kerala districts as there were no Covid positive cases, and they were in the green zone. The situation continued till April 21, but the rise in cases forced the government to put the districts in orange zone on April 23, and then in red on Monday.

“Studies show that relaxing or reversing quarantine measures will lead to an explosion in the infected case count. Also, the case of local transmission among health workers, and that too with untraceable sources of infection, is an indicator of the dangerous situation that the state is heading in to,” said a public health expert.Since April 20, the two districts have accounted for 31 of the 80 cases reported in the state — nearly 40%. These include imported ones, those entering from neighbouring states and contact transmission. “It’s worth examining why the two districts witnessed a sudden spike,” the health expert said.

‘Nothing unusual in the uptick in cases’ 
Rajeev Sadanandan, former health secretary, however, said there is nothing unusual in the uptick in cases.
“It happened because the authorities increased the surveillance. The cases will continue to show an upward trend. It is not an alarming situation. But one area that the state should focus on is to set up a scientifically designed testing and surveillance system. It will come in handy if the state heads to the third stage – community transmission,” he said.

After a headload worker in Kottayam turned positive, the number of samples tested in the district has gone up from 35, nine and 20 in the past three days to 262 on Monday.Experts said inter-district travel of health workers in patient care could also be a reason for the sudden spread of Covid cases. The government should step in to ensure the  accommodation facilities for health workers, mainly nurses, they said.

“Though health workers as a whole are prone to infections, the chances of nurses contracting the disease are double-fold. Authorities should provide them with accommodation facilities near the health centre they are working in. Their inter-district travel will also have to be barred,” said an expert.

Testing times

262 samples tested in Kottayam on Monday, up from 35, nine and 20 in the past 3 days

31 of the 80 +ve cases reported in the state since April 20 were from Idukki & Kottayam

49 cases in Kannur, the highest in the state now

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