Two MLAs go into quarantine, raise questions as to how the patient evaded airport screening
A COVID-19 patient’s ‘strange case’ has forced the Kerala government to put Kasaragod, aa district of northern Kerala, under lockdown.
In a press briefing, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that government offices in Kasaragod will remain closed for a week.
“All worshipping centres and clubs will be shut for two weeks. Shops should function from 11 am to 5 pm only. This applies to bars also,” Pinarayi said, adding that an order on these restrictions has been issued.
According to Pinarayi, a ‘strange case’ has persuaded the government to put Kasaragod under lockdown.
“A patient alighted at the Karipur airport in Kozhikode from Dubai and stayed there that night in a lodge. The next day, he went to Kozhikode. From there, he went to Kasaragod by train. Back at home, he attended all functions, including public meetings and a football match. He also went to a local club and later hosted guests during a family function,” Pinarayi said.
The Lede has found that the patient arrived on March 11 at around 8 am in Kozhikode and then he stayed in a lodge.
The next day, he travelled from Kozhikode to Kasaragod in the S9 sleeper coach of Maveli Express.
The person went to Kasaragod general hospital on March 16 after a coronavirus positive case was reported in Kasaragod. His samples were collected for testing and he was quarantined.
Pinarayi said the patient also shook hands with an MLA and hugged another.
The MLAs, NA Nellikkunnu and MC Kamaruddin are currently in quarantine at their homes.
Talking to The Lede, Kamaruddin, Manjeswaram MLA, said that he met the patient for a few seconds only.
“While I was driving, a youth I knew waved his hand at me. If we don’t stop, people will talk about us. So I reversed the car a bit to say hello to him and shook his hand, and he took a photo with me. It was only later that he tested positive.
I have been carrying a sanitiser and perfumes with me and I had used it immediately. I am confident that I won’t be infected. However I decided to go into self-quarantine,” Kamaruddin said.
Meanwhile, Nellikkunnu told The Lede that he had visited the patient’s relative’s marriage.
“I didn’t know that he was a patient. This happened on March 16. Now when I came to know that he is positive, I called the district collector and informed that I am going into isolation,” Nellikkunnu said.
Two of the six newly reported cases in Kasaragod are relatives of the patient.
“The other two came from Dubai while the details of the remaining two have not yet been collected,” Pinarayi added.
A government order is in place that those coming from the infected country have to be in quarantine for 14 days even if they are not COVID-19 positive.
It is a puzzle as to how the infected man evaded authorities, defied home quarantine and travelled.
Nellikkunnu said that it is surprising to know to learn how he skipped the airport clearance.
“If he was notified as a person coming from an infected country, why was that not informed to the District Medical Officer in Kasaragod. If that had happened, we could have averted this situation. It is not that we are pointing at lapses. It is that we should fix those lapses,” Nellikkunnu added.
Meanwhile, a patient from Palakkad has been admitted to the Ernakulam Medical College at Kalamassery.
"44,390 people are under observation, of which 44,165 are in home quarantine and 225 in isolation wards in hospitals," Pinarayi added.
Pinarayi also said the state would completely cooperate with the Janata Curfew called by the Prime Minister on Sunday, March 22.
“All public transport, including KSRTC and Kochi Metro, will not conduct services that day,” he said.
All five cases reported from Ernakulam are part of a 19-member tourist group from the UK.
The group was offloaded from a Dubai-bound flight at the Kochi airport on March 15 as one of them was already infected.
On Friday, Pinarayi had announced a revival package of Rs 20,000 crore to tide over the Coronavirus crisis.
The Rs 20,000 crore special package includes advance distribution of two months’ welfare pension, Rs 2000 crore for an employment guarantee programme and Rs 100 crore for free food grains to be distributed to families in need. Another Rs 2,000 crore has been earmarked for loans through Kudumbashree, the state’s poverty eradication and women empowerment scheme.
The package also contains a list of tax relaxations, such as reduction of entertainment taxes for cinema halls, tax relief for passenger vehicles, and lowered fitness charges for autos and taxis.
Pinarayi also set aside Rs 500 crore for support public healthcare and Rs 50 crore to provide meals at subsidised rates at Rs 20 per plate through 1000 hotels across the state.