Kerala is throwing all its energy, attention and human resources into surveillance, monitoring and contact tracing, in an attempt to ensure that the window of opportunity for the containment of COVID-19 is not lost. More stringent measures were announced on Saturday for strengthening surveillance at airports, railway stations and border points to ensure that every one entering the State is screened properly.
However, in an attempt to be one step ahead of the coronavirus disease, authorities seemed to be jumping ahead of the containment phase, announcing a virtual lockdown of the capital city by proposing the closure of all shopping malls and warning people not to step out unless necessary.
While social distancing is one of the crucial and most effective measures to break the transmission of the virus, this unprecedented announcement led to a state of total panic in the capital city on Saturday.
With little time for preparation, panic buying by people for essentials ensued. Even though the Chief Minister clarified later that the government only intended to warn people about reducing crowding and that malls were not to be closed, the damage had already been done.
With airport arrivals going up steadily, especially from nations where active transmission of COVID-19 is on, the State put 2,209 people more on surveillance and another 106 new patients in isolation on Saturday.
On Saturday, there was no new cases. The total number of people under surveillance in Kerala went up to 7,677 and the number of hospital admissions, to 302.
Briefing media, Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan said that corona care centres would be readied near airports as per the directive of the Centre to provide a safe environment for those arrivals who may need to be housed overnight while completing airport screening. Preparations were already on to identify and ready suitable locations.
The district administration will be in touch with private hospitals to rope in their support to ensure that proper isolation facilities with ICUs and ventilator support can be additionally arranged.
Mr. Vijayan reiterated that while the public need not panic, it was important that they listened to the directives issued by health authorities as the State was going through a public health emergency of an unprecedented scale. He warned that the police may have to intervene if the directive of avoiding public gatherings was violated. He again warned the public not to harass tourists unnecessarily and to treat them well as COVID-19 was an issue common to nations the world over.
Though people from foreign nations without apparent symptoms were being put on home quarantine, what actual “home quarantine” entails seems to have been lost on people despite the massive awareness campaigns run by the Health Department. Home quarantine essentially means confining oneself to a self-contained room with little or no contact with other family members. Unless this is followed strictly, more people have to be admitted into isolation facilities, creating unnecessary strain on hospitals.