In the highest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases in Kerala so far, 62 people, including 49 expats have tested positive for the virus on Saturday, taking the infection tally to 794.
Of these newly reported cases, 16 are gulf returnees and one each has come back from Maldives and Singapore. While 31 people are from other states across the country including 13 from Maharashtra and 12 from Tamil Nadu, two each from Gujarat and Karnataka and one each from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Rest of the 13 have been exposed to the virus through close contact.
With these 62 cases, the state has now 275 active cases.
As per the assessment of the state government, the third wave of virus transmission will be very dangerous as most of the non-resident Keralites are returning from worst-hit containment and red zone areas. According to a report, the state Cabinet has assessed that the number of infected persons could reach 2000 in coming months, if the inflow of Malayali expatriates continues at the current pace.
As the Centre has given permission for transportation, expatriates are returning home by rail, road, air and water routes. The health minister KK Shailaja had earlier cautioned that this fresh wave of virus infection would be dangerous as the situation will go out of control if those coming from red zone areas ignore COVID-19 health protocol.
People coming from other states have to obtain a pass to enter the state. People who need institutional quarantine get such facilities and persons who have facilities back at their homes are sent to home quarantine. At all check posts, a team of the Health Department and other departments are working in coordination and persons who have symptoms of the viral infection are being shifted to hospitals immediately. In airports and at railway stations, such screenings are occurring.
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CM Pinarayi Vijayan, in one of his daily press conferences, made it clear that Keralites have all the rights to come back to the state. “Keralites living outside the state have all the right to come back to their native state and the government will not prevent them. But, all of them should follow the quarantine guidelines and it is the responsibility of the local bodies’ ward level committees, police and health authorities and residents’ associations to ensure that no one is flouting the guidelines. Kerala is the state where home quarantining has been successfully implemented.”
When the whole country has been witnessing a soaring number of positive cases, the state has set an example with slow increase in the number of cases, low mortality rate and high recovery rate.
However, the positive cases have increased after the arrival of special flights carrying NRKs from abroad and the opening of state borders. On May 8, only one new case had been reported in the state and the number of active cases was just 16. But on May 13, 10 cases were reported and 26 cases on May 14. The subsequent days have reported high numbers compared to the first week of May. On May 21, as many as 24 cases were recorded. On May 22, the number of new cases was 42.
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Kerala had reported its fourth fatality on Thursday night after a 73-year-old woman, who had travelled from Maharashtra to Thrissur, along with her son in a taxi, died.
The last rites of the woman were held this morning following the COVID-19 protocol. CM Vijayan, however, on Friday pointed out that the increase in cases was not due to relaxations in lockdown curbs, but because many Keralites from abroad and other states were returning.
The chief minister, however, said that the state cannot close doors on its own people. "We cannot close the doors on them. When people are returning from hotspots, the rise in cases was expected.
“We need to protect them and ensure that those here are not infected. What we need to understand is that the situation is serious and there is a need to strengthen our guard against the virus," he said.
"This is not the time for celebrations," Vijayan said and cautioned against taking small children and the elderly to public spaces for shopping and other purposes.
With this, the COVID-19 tally in the state has climbed to 794, while 275 are presently under treatment. At least 91,084 are under observation in the state while 90,416 are under home or institutional quarantine, and 668 are in various hospitals.
According to officials, 88,640 people have come to the state through air, sea and road routes since early this month. Of these, 7,303 have come to the state through airports, 1,621 through seaports, 3,108 through rail and rest have come through various checkposts.
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(With inputs from PTI)