As Kerala witnesses an increase in Covid-19 cases among health workers and persons with no travel or contact history, the medical fraternity has expressed concerns that community spread of the virus may have happened in the state.
The government has officially ruled out community spread even as it has repeatedly warned that Kerala is on the brink of that danger. To allay fears of community spread, the health department had stated that the share of cases attributed to contacts is only 30 per cent of total cases.
So far, 37 health workers, including doctors and nurses, have tested positive, most of them in the last three weeks. Besides, 30-odd cases have emerged that could not be linked to any source, causing concern about community spread.
Among the latest cases with no travel or contact history is a 77-year-old Christian priest who died on Tuesday, a day after he tested positive. The priest was injured a two-wheeler accident and hospitalised either at the district hospital or medical college in Thiruvananthapuram since April 20. His samples were collected earlier this week after he developed breathing trouble. As many as 20 doctors and 50 other staff of the medical college and district hospital have been put in home quarantine following his death.
Last week, a Thiruvananthapuram resident, who was arrested in connection with the burning of his house, tested positive. His samples were taken after the jail department ordered that all persons being lodged in prisons should be tested. The person’s route map showed that he had attended two cremations since May 9, but the health department could not ascertain his source of infection.
In Kasaragod district, a doctor at government general hospital tested positive on Wednesday. Sources said safety measures were found lacking in the hospital, where the doctor had examined a person who came from another state. The person had tested positive, hence the doctor’s samples were also collected.
In Kannur, an auto-driver who sustained injury after a fall from a tree was found to be a Covid-19 positive last week. His samples were tested before he went for surgery for a spinal injury. His source of infection could not be ascertained.
Kerala Government Medical Officers’ Association state president Joseph Chacko said community spread of Covid-19 has already happened in Kerala. “The stray cases and frequent cases among health workers indicate that there is community spread. The degree of spread could be very less compared to other states. Not all health workers have contracted the virus through direct exposure to suspected or positive cases. Health workers who tested positive have been asymptomatic. We need more safety measures such as testing of samples of all patients (non-Covid-19),” he said.
The quality of PPE kits is also a concern, Chacko added. “We have taken up the matter with the government.”
Sources said the state should increase the number of tests to bring out more asymptomatic cases. The state has so far tested 88,813 samples, including 15,101 samples collected as part of sentinel surveillance or random test.
The state was testing less than 800 samples a day until recently. It has hiked the number to above 1,000 since May 14 and to above 2,000 since May 25.
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