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Kerala in shutdown mode as more coronavirus cases emerge

Two years back, Kerala had successfully contained the nipah virus. The state’s health minister is confident that authorities will overcome coronavirus challenge too.

Updated: Mar 11, 2020 11:00 IST

By Ramesh Babu, Hindustan Times Thiruvananthapuram

Women devotees wearing masks head to their homes after making offerings during the annual Pongala festival at the Attukal temple in Thiruvananthapuram, on March 9. (AP Photo)

Kerala has gone into partial shutdown with the total number of people infected with coronavirus rising to 14. Many others have been isolated after showing symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Severe restrictions have been imposed on public gatherings and all educational institutions have been shut down till March 31 as the state tackles the virus.

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The latest to test positive were parents of three-year-old boy, who recently came back from one of the global coronavirus hot spots Italy. They have been kept in an isolation ward of a hospital in Kochi. Health officials said conditions of all infected people are stable and they are responding well to symptomatic treatment. As many as 1500 people are under observation, out of these 259 are admitted to various hospitals.

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The state is keeping its fingers crossed as two dozen results are expected by Wednesday evening.

“We are fighting back with all resources available. What we need is co-operation of people. Two years back we had contained another dangerous virus nipah effectively. We will overcome this challenge also,” Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja said late on Tuesday night.

The state is bracing for the arrival of more travellers from abroad as situation is turning serious in countries like Italy. At least 42 people, who came from Italy, were quarantined in Kochi in the early hours of Wednesday. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had shot off a letter to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention to evacuate 45 Indians, mostly Keralites, stranded in Fiumicino (Rome) airport in Italy. They complained that airport officials told them India is insisting on certificates declaring they are free from virus.

From imported cases to local transmission, Kerala had pressed the emergency button announcing a series of measures to check the spread of the virus. The state health department has called for strict community surveillance, scaling up of contact tracing and tapping local bodies to check the spread of the deadly disease. The health department has also prepared a route map for the three people who returned from Italy and dodged health officials; 11 of the 14 infected people reportedly got the virus from them.

They belong to Ranni, a town in Pathanamthitta, which now wears a deserted look.

Many social and religious bodies have also announced their support to the government. Two important shrines, Guruvayoor and Sabarimala, have scaled down their daily grind. The Catholic Bishops Council has issued a special guideline to conduct prayers and offerings - important among them is devotees are being asked to receive holy communion, considered most sacrament, in the hand, not on the tongue. It has also advised believers to avoid large gatherings and masses. The Nair Service Society has also asked people to skip big gatherings. Cinema halls have also announced closure and film units also suspended their shooting. Hotels and resorts have asked not to entertain foreign guests till further notice.

The state had reported India’s first three cases of coronavirus in January this year. They have now recovered fully. Two years back, Kerala had witnessed the outbreak of another dangerous virus, nipah. Though it claimed 17 lives, the virus was localised and contained effectively.


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