Kerala on high alert after five fresh coronavirus cases detected; Union health ministry directs hospitals to increase isolation facilities

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country rose to 39 on Sunday, after five people, three with recent travel history to Italy, tested positive for the infection in Kerala

FP Staff March 08, 2020 23:01:29 IST
Kerala on high alert after five fresh coronavirus cases detected; Union health ministry directs hospitals to increase isolation facilities
  • The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country rose to 39 on Sunday, after five people, three with recent travel history to Italy, tested positive for the infection in Kerala

  • After it came to light that three of the patients had evaded screening at the airport, the state health department said failure to inform authorities about travel history and symptoms would be considered a crime

  • the Cabinet secretary held the 16th review meeting where it was decided that in view of rising cases in France, the US, Spain, dedicated aerobridges of flights from these countries should be put in place at airports

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country rose to 39 on Sunday, after five people, three with recent travel history to Italy, tested positive for the infection in Kerala.

In West Bengal, a diabetic man admitted to an isolation ward with symptoms of the virus died on Sunday night. However, officials said that the man, who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia, had most probably died due to diabetes and it was unlikely that his death was linked to the virus. Test results for his blood and swab samples are awaited.

Kerala on high alert

Three of the five patients in Kerala, a couple and their son, had evaded health screening at the airport on their return about a week ago, while the other two are their relatives. All the five hail from Ranni in Pathnamthitta district, PTI quoted Kerala health minister KK Shailaja as saying.  "As of now their condition is stable. But there is need to take extra care", the minister said. Two nonagenerian members of the family will be shifted to the Kottayam Medical College hospital as a precaution, she added.

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Representative image. PTI

Ranni MLA Raju Abraham said the affected persons had attended a wedding, gone for shopping, went to the office of a police official and it is assumed visited at least 300 friends and relatives near their home. They went to a taluka hospital where they were first examined by medical personnel without using any masks or gloves, Abraham told PTI.

Shailaja said the state has been put on high alert in the wake of the new cases, reported more than a fortnight after India's first three coronavirus patients  – medical students from Wuhan – were discharged from hospitals in the state.

The minister said all the passengers who travelled with the infected family in the Venice-Doha Qatar airlines QR 126 flight on 29 February and Qatar Airlines flight QR514 from Doha to Kochi that arrived at 8.20 am on 1 March should get in touch with health authorities. The airlines, in a statement, said it was working with Indian health authorities in this regard.

The state health department said failure to inform authorities about travel history and symptoms would be considered a crime, while the state police separately said it was "illegal and punishable" if anyone hid such information. "Strict action, including prosecution, will be initiated against them. Directives of various government agencies should be followed in this regard," a police release said

Meanwhile, the Kerala government has decided to go ahead with "Attukal Pongala," a large all-women religious congregation to be held on Monday. The government, however, issued fresh guidelines, including asking those coming from abroad, especially from the affected countries, to make the offering in their hotels itself.

The minister said persons showing any symptoms of the virus should keep away from the congregation at Attukal temple complex.  Medical stalls and ambulances will be stationed near the temple complex and video clippings of the festivities would also be taken, the minister said.

Meanwhile, a cruise ship with a Panama flag 'MSC Lirica' was turned back at the New Mangalore Port on Saturday following the Centre's advisory to deny entry to cruise ships till 31 March in the wake of the coronavirus scare.

Health ministry directs hospitals to set up isolation facilities

Isolation facilities are being augmented in several hospitals across the country. The Union health ministry has asked the AIIMS administration in Delhi to designate a part of the new emergency wing for setting up of isolation beds for suspected COVID-19 patients. Six other AIIMS institutes have been directed to keep an isolation bed capacity between 12-15 for coronavirus patients, which can be scaled up to 30 if need arises, an official said. Besides, the ministry has asked the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Jhajjar to augment its isolation bed capacity to 125 from the existing 25. Also, the Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Pondicherry has been asked to keep aside 13 beds for isolating patients.

On Sunday evening, the Cabinet secretary held the 16th review meeting where it was decided that in view of rising cases in France, the US, Spain, dedicated aerobridges of flights from these countries should be put in place at airports. Dedicated aerobridges are in place for flights from China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Nepal and Indonesia. According to an official statement, discussions on bringing back Indian nationals stranded in Iran were also held during the meeting. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan is continuously monitoring and reviewing the status, actions taken and future preparedness of states, the statement said.

States step up screening and surveillance

In light of the fresh cases reported in the country, state governments reviewed preparations to fight the disease and stepped up screening measures. The Delhi government has ordered that DTC and cluster buses, metro and hospitals to be disinfected on a regular basis as a precautionary measure, said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Addressing a press conference, Kejriwal said 168 isolation beds had been set up at 25 hospitals for coronavirus patients. He appealed to the people in Delhi to inform the government if any person in their neighbourhood had returned from abroad in the last 14 days. The chief minister, who chaired a state task force on Sunday, said the government was fully prepared to deal with the novel coronavirus , adding that people do not need to panic.  Amid reports of shortage of masks and other protective gear, he urged people not to stock up on masks and asked them to wash their hands frequently. He also said he will meet Vardhan on Monday to request a ban on travel to countries where a significant number of COVID-19 cases have been reported.

In West Bengal's Murshidabad, a diabetic man died in the isolation ward of a hospital, a day after he was admitted there with suspected symptoms of coronavirus following his return from Saudi Arabia. According to doctors, the man, Janarul Haque was admitted to the hospital with fever, cough and cold. Though test results of his blood and swab samples for novel coronavirus were awaited, it can be said that the man died probably of diabetes, Director of Health Services Ajay Chakraborty told PTI. "The man was highly diabetic and was on insulin. He returned home from Saudi Arabia and had no money to take insulin for the last three to four days. He was also suffering from fever, cough and cold. He was admitted to the isolation ward of the Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital yesterday and died today," the health services director said. "We are waiting for the results of medical tests. The possibility of his death due to novel coronavirus infection is remote," he said.

However, precautions will be taken during the last rites of Haque according to the directives set by the Central and state governments for patients who die of the virus, another senior official said. "Family members will not be allowed to touch the body since the man had been suffering from cough and breathlessness. Those performing his last rites will be given protective gear, masks and gloves. Though test results are yet to be known, we do not want to take any chance," he said.

Kerala on high alert after five fresh <span class=coronavirus cases detected Union health ministry directs hospitals to increase isolation facilities" width="380" height="285" />

Factory workers in Amritsar wear protective masks in the wake of novel coronavirus scare. PTI

In Tamil Nadu, a 15-year old boy who arrived in Chennai from the US via Doha with his father was sent to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital in Chennai as he showed some symptoms associated with fever during screening at the airport, officials said. Twenty-seven other people who had come in contact with the 45-year-old coronavirus patient in the state have been kept under home surveillance.  The man's family members were also being monitored as per the protocol and "second-level contacts," (people who came in contact with those who were in touch directly with the infected) were being traced, she said. The top official also said that a new testing facility was being set up at Theni.

After Sikkim, the Arunachal Pradesh government has also decided to temporarily suspend issuing Protected Area Permits (PAPs) to foreigners to check the spread of coronavirus .

In Rajasthan, Additional Chief Secretary (Medical and Health) Rohit Kumar Singh  said that the condition of the coronavirus -affected Italian couple was improving. “The Italian man has no fever now and his condition is constantly improving. His blood count has become normal with decreased pneumonia symptoms, requiring much less oxygen (support). His wife, who too was found corona-positive, is much better now," PTI quoted him as saying. Singh said a total of 303 samples have been collected in the state so far. Of them, 300 were negative, two positive (Italian couple) and the report of one sample is awaited. As a measure to handle the situation, 615 teams of the health department has conducted survey of 32,118 houses. He said the information on safety tips against coronavirus afflictions were given to people through 11,152 gram sabhas held across the state on Sunday.

The district magistrate of Leh Ladakh ordered that all schools in Leh shall remain close till 31 March as a precautionary measure, reported ANI.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath assured people saying that all adequate measures had been taken and urged them to take precautions, saying "prevention is better than cure". "Our government has set up an isolation ward in every district for suspected patients. There is complete arrangement for their treatment," he added.

Meanwhile in Gujarat, the test results of 47 suspected patients came back negative while in Maharashtra, the samples of 258 people admitted in hospitals tested negative. Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said that 15 patients continue to be under observation in Pune and Mumbai.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date:

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