A coastal village on the outskirts of Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram has emerged as a sensitive Covid-19 hotspot after over 100 people in the area tested positive for the virus in last one week.
Poonthura, a fishing village located 12 km off Thiruvananthapuram, has been described by government officials as an area witnessing ‘super spread’ of the coronavirus infection. A super spread indicates the transmission of the virus from one or more persons to a large group of people through primary or secondary contact.
The origin of the infection in the area is suspected to be a wholesale fish vendor at the local Kumarichanda market. Since then, dozens of people including autorickshaw drivers, fishermen and their families have tested positive for the virus in the area encompassing three wards of the local corporation. There has always been a constant movement of fish workers between villages like Poonthura and Kanyakumari on the Tamil Nadu border.
“It can be described as a local super-spread,” said minister-in-charge of the district Kadakampally Surendran, denying any evidence of a community spread yet.
A densely-populated area with congested living arrangements, a large-scale spread of the virus here on the lines of Dharavi in Mumbai could spell disaster for health officials who have been carrying out testing using rapid antigen kits which give out results in under 30 minutes.
On Wednesday alone, 55 persons from Poonthura and adjoining areas were detected with the infection. After a high-level meeting chaired by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, it was decided to strengthen restrictions that are already in place as part of the triple lockdown in Thiruvananthapuram. Entry and exit to the area will be allowed only for those with essential duties.
A release from the health minister’s office said testing will be intensified in clusters reporting higher incidence of cases so that asymptomatic persons and those with mild symptoms can be identified faster. Their primary and secondary contacts will be put under quarantine and monitored round-the-clock.
Fishing activities have been suspended in Poonthura until further notice. Coast Guard, Coastal Security and Marine Enforcement wing of the state police have been deputed to prevent the movement of fishing boats between Poonthura and the villages on the Tamil Nadu border. Special Armed Police (SAP) commandos have been posted in the village as part of the lockdown security.
Since a majority of the residents in Poonthura and adjoining villages have livelihoods strung to fishing, the government decided to provide five kilograms of free ration to families in the area. However, elderly persons and children are not allowed to go out to ration shops. Only one member per family is allowed to obtain rice and other provisions from the shops.
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