Stepping up its efforts to check the spread of coronavirus in Kerala, the state government on Wednesday sent 42 people, who returned from Italy on Tuesday night, to various health facilities for monitoring. As many as 1,496 people are under observation in the state as the number of coronavirus positive cases has gone up to 14.
State health authorities said the passengers from Italy, who arrived at Kochi airport, were sent to hospitals as they failed to produce health certificates with negative tests results for Covid-19 ( coronavirus disease 2019). The newly-quarantined returnees include 10 people with breathing problems, two pregnant women and two children.
In Italy, Covid-19 is reported to have killed 630 people so far. From March 10, the Centre has made the health certificate mandatory for all passengers travelling from Italy and South Korea.
"There is little surety that Kerala will be able to avoid a coronavirus death. But as of now, our medical team is taking the boldest steps possible to avert any tragedy," says health minister KK Shylaja.
The Kerala government has been on its toes to contain the spread of infection, shutting down educational institutions till March 31. Economic activities are in partial shutdown after chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan made a plea to the people and institutions to subdue festivities and events that call for assembly of big crowds.
What made the state government swing to a knee-jerk reaction on rapid quarantines is that Kerala has been hit by a second round of coronavirus cases, even after the first three positive cases were cured and discharged from hospital. The fresh cases constituted friends and relatives of an Italy-returned family, which refused to share its travel history with health authorities at the Kochi airport.
"Unlike this Italy-returned family, the first set of patients-three medical students from Wuhan in China-had gone out of the way to be co-operative," says the minister.
These Italy-returned coronavirus positive patients were traced to have had put around 3,000 people under potential risk through their week-long visits. Their 90-year-old father with a cardiac problem and 86-year-old mother are among the newly hospitalised coronavirus patients.
Meanwhile, 45 Indians, mostly Keralites, stranded in Fiumicino (Rome) airport in Italy, have complained that despite having confirmed tickets they are not being allowed to board flights since they don’t have the health certificates that the Indian government mandated.
Vijayan has shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his intervention in evacuating these persons. The Centre is planning to send a medical delegation to attend to these India-bound passengers, according to V Muralidharan, minister of state (external affairs).
Out of the 1,496 people under observation in Kerala, 1,236 people are in home quarantine while the rest are in various hospitals. Serum samples of 970 suspected cases have been sent to the National Institute of Virology.