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Kerala govt seeks central assistance to curb crisis

A health ministry official said all three patients have lower respiratory infection and they were responding well to symptomatic treatment.

Updated: Feb 05, 2020 06:16 IST

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times Thiruvananthapuram

Medical staff at an isolation ward at Kochi Medical College in Kerala on Tuesday. (PTI)

A day after the Kerala government  declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a “state calamity” after detecting three infected people,the state government on Tuesday sought immediate central assistance to tide over the crisis.

The state sounded an emergency on Monday after the third patient tested positive for novel coronavirus in Kasaragod in north Kerala. All three were medical students studying in Wuhan, the Chinese city considered the epicentre of the outbreak. A group of seven, including the three infected persons, travelled back to Kerala on January 24, according to health officials.

A health ministry official said all three patients have lower respiratory infection and they were responding well to symptomatic treatment. Around 2,500 people are under surveillance at their homes across the state and some 84 have been admitted to hospitals, according to the government.

“We want the Union government to release more funds to meet the emergency. Proper surveillance and isolation involve a lot of expenditure. The Union health minister has assured to help us. We expect urgent assistance,” said state health minister K K Shailaja.

The “calamity” status will help the government to allot more funds to preventive measures and the police will also get additional powers to deal with China-returnees who dodge health authorities, and rumour mongers, an official privy to the development said.

However, despite a high alert and increased surveillance, two men who came from China left for Saudi Arabia on Monday without informing health authorities in Kozhikkode. “We have identified them and efforts are on to bring them back,” said Kozhikkode district medical officer Dr V Jayashree.

“At least 70% of the returnees report on their own. But some skip, thinking that they can approach hospitals once they develop some symptoms. Since the majority of the returnees are medical students they understand the gravity and cooperate fully. At times their relatives argue and we convince them,” said Dr Satheesan P V, district programme manager of Thrissur.

Health minister Shailaja has already warned those who dodge authorities that such an attitude will be treated as a crime.

Besides opening more isolation wards, the government has also started training doctors and paramedical staff to meet the emergency. Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended 14 days’ isolation, the state has raised the bar to 28 days to rule out any possibility of infection. Health officials said they are using the experience gained while fighting the nipah virus outbreak two years ago, to fight coronavirus.

Kerala’s tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran said the epidemic outbreak had begun affecting the tourism sector, citing cancellations of hotel bookings. “This is another blow to the tourism industry,” he said, citing the damage done by two consecutive floods. “There were good bookings this time. But many hotels now say they are getting mass cancellations,” he said in the state Assembly during question hour.


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