The government is planning to cordon off more areas, set up more first line treatment centers, get help from private hospitals, and deploy more surveillance including the use of hundreds of drones to check people jumping quarantines.
Kerala’s total confirmed cases crossed 10,000 mark on Thursday, and 5,372 of them are active cases. There are 722 new covid-19 cases on Thursday, the highest daily hike so far, 322 in Thiruvananthapuram alone. It is continuing with the trend seen in the last few days of the numbers touching a new record daily hike everyday. In a sigh of relief, the deaths per million is still less than one percent in the state, much lesser than national average.
The active cases were as low as 14 cases on 7 May. In a marked shift from previous months, more than half of the soaring case counts are now attributable to local transmission, rather than on account of people who returned from international or interstate travel. On Thursday, 481 were infected through local transmission, and the source of infection in 34 of them is still unknown.
Moreover, many of these cases come from people who have yet to show symptoms, who don’t yet know they are ill. Some 42% of the patients in Kerala do not show symptoms, and 31% show only mild symptoms, as per government data.
The gravest situation is in the capital city Thiruvananthapuram, which has already imposed shut down for a second week running, said Kerala chief minister Vijayan. Thiruvananthapuram also houses the administrative headquarters, Secretariat, which is effectively shut. All non-urgent official meetings are postponed for 14 days, said Vijayan.
“We have decided to widen the covid-19 mitigation efforts by forming a sort of medical army. It will take the services of not only government hospitals, but private hospitals, clinics, new emergency hires under the government departments,” said Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
All private hospitals are asked to set aside a portion of their infrastructure as covid-19 centers, with a minimum capacity to admit 20 people. Already, the work for a temporary hospital is underway in Poonthura, a coastal area that is acting like a super spreader.
The Greenfield stadium in the capital city Thiruvananthapuram, which is usually opened for international cricket matches, is being converted into a first line treatment center. Several other such stadiums and auditoriums are being converted into the same in other districts, to keep people with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.
The government thinks the current hike is a direct result of the interaction of the local populace with neighbouring cities in border states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, where infections have shown a huge resurgence.
“You cannot maintain an island of good health in an ocean of disease,” said a senior official privy to the government’s preparations, requesting not to be named.
“If the disease surges ahead in Nagercoil (in Tamil Nadu), you can almost expect it to reach Poonthura (both are linked by coastal harbours). And it did. When the local transmission is huge in Theni (in Tamil Nadu), we cannot say the virus won’t reach Idukki (across the border in Kerala),” the person said.
“People in these geographies travel to each other. There is a logic of an epidemic that you can’t escape. Until human interaction continues, when the prevalence increases in one place, the other place will also be infected,” the person added.
The government’s first priority is to break the linkage of human interaction in clusters of infections, using techniques including lockdown, and address the social cost involved with respect to medical teams and livelihood concerns, the person said. It is also probing other methods, he added, “for example, if you can do a kind of mapping of who the people are likely to go out, where are the contacts coming in.”