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Kerala plans mass screening

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  As fears of community transmission of coronavirus grows, Kerala, which has so far been ahead of the game in fighting the menace, is giving shape to a massive screening campaign. The state’s health department plans to conduct mass screening camps at bus stands, railway stations, college and school campuses and in other public spaces to check if the fears are valid.“There are talks of a silent transmission. That is, people without symptoms passing the virus on to others and thereby increasing the chances for community transmission. To find empirical evidence, such camps will be of great help,” said an officer.

The state is currently working as per Phase 2 plan, where the infected persons are isolated and treated. Kerala was the first to shut schools and colleges, impose restrictions on festivals and gatherings, and also start screening inter-state travellers. On Wednesday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan spoke to various religious leaders, who promised him to reduce events involving gatherings at various places of worships. While no new cases were reported in Kerala on Wednesday, the state has 27 active cases of infection while 25,603 are under observation.

As for mass screening, the government feels it will help allay fears of the people as well. “The common man is not able to distinguish between Covid-19 and influenza. If someone has fever, runny nose and sore throat, he/she fears it could be Covid-19. Such camps will help address their fears,” the official said.
Kerala also plans to put added thrust on social distancing to try and flatten the curve. A grand campaign will be launched to promote the idea.

“Compared to other states, Kerala’s public health system is far better. But its infrastructural facilities are limited when it comes to dealing with emergencies like community transmission. The idea is to slow down the spread of the virus and prevent a huge spike in the number of all people getting sick at once. If that happens, the health system will get overwhelmed, resulting in shortage of hospital beds and ventilators for those in need of them,” said a community medicine specialist.

State Planning Board member and health activist Dr B Iqbal said: “Covid-19 has a low fatality rate. But considering the state’s greying population and the people suffering from co-morbidities like cancer, diabetes, respiratory diseases and others… practising social distancing, hand hygiene and cough etiquette is the key.”

Additional focus on social distancing
Since draconian measures like lockdown are not feasible, Kerala has decided to give more focus to social distancing. It is the most effective tool to keep Covid-19 in check, a specialist said.

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