Quarantine, what’s that? Keralite returnees spread COVID at social outings

To date, in Kerala the total number scaled 56, including the first three cases who recovered from COVID-19 infection

Kerala, coronavirus, COVID-19, Coronavirus outbreak, community transmission, coronavirus shutdown
Arackal allegedly refused to wear mask and follow other instructions to be observed by the passengers coming from other states as part of the measures to check COVID-19 spread. Photo: PTI file

The Italy-returned family of three in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, after being showered with abuses on social media for dodging coronavirus screening at the airport, can relax now because there are worse cases in the state of people who have not only cheated airport authorities but also came in contact with at least 1400 primary contacts in six days.

But there is one case in Kasaragod which is akin to the mythological Lord Hanuman setting the whole of Lanka on fire. But the difference could be that Hanuman had a cause but this man didn’t. Also, to go by his wanton trait, a bit of his tale is missing, too.

A 47-year-old businessman, who has a travel history to Dubai, not just dodged the checking but also came in contact with more than 1,400 people in six days of him arriving at Kasaragod, violating the quarantine guidelines, traveling across three districts, attending public functions and parties, meeting VIPs, hand-shaking and hugging them, including two MLAs of the district.

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However, the tale only went out of hand when D. Sajith Babu, District Collector of Kasaragod, revealed that the man, even after testing positive on March 18, refused to reveal his travel details, making it impossible to prepare his route map.

“There is something dubious about him,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in his press conference on Saturday. The CM expressed displeasure over the glaring act of irreverence by this man, which led to a complete shutdown of the entire district which now has more than 15 cases. He warned that the government would go to the ‘next level’ and take stringent steps if people refused to cooperate.

The story of Kasargod man is simply bizarre. After arriving at the Karipur International Airport on IX 344 Air India Express, he was asymptomatic and was advised to go on home isolation for 14 days. However, he stayed in a hotel for a day, the purpose of which is yet to be disclosed.

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On March 16, the second case of COVID-19 was reported from Kasargod, who also was a Gulf-returnee kept under observation. According to Rahim, Police Inspector, Kasaragod, they received calls from people that the man was roaming around without keeping himself in isolation, violating the guidelines.

“We contacted him over phone and asked him to go to the hospital and get himself examined. It was on the same day when the second case of COVID-19 was reported,” he said.

The District Collector’s statement led to social media being flooded with trolls that the ‘route map’ of the man was not that clean which was precisely the reason for him hiding his details.

The assumption later proved correct. According to a highly placed source in the Customs department, his passport was withheld at immigration and he was asked to collect it from the ‘ground floor’ after a detailed examination of his baggage.

“He did not obey our orders and fled the airport without collecting his passport,” said an officer in charge of Customs clearance, adding that the patient took a room in a hotel nearby and collected his passport a few hours later.

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For reasons unknown, he did not want to meet the higher officials and went back and the rest of the story unfolded from the CCTV footage at the airport, the officer said.

“We all were shocked to see what he had done after coming back. He spent a whole day in the airport, talked to many people in the international terminal, hugged, gave handshakes and was also chewing pan and spitting it in the washrooms. He talked to several staffers in an attempt to get his passport back, but failed and went back. It was clear that he did not want to meet the Deputy Commissioner,” said an officer who didn’t want to be named.

Seven of the staff members who had come in close contact with the man were put under quarantine and the route map of his movement prepared by the district authorities, later released, only adds to the crisis-ridden pandemic.

From the route map, it was found that he arrived at the Karipur International Airport at 7.45 a.m. on March 11, took an auto, went to a hotel nearby, checked in and came back to the airport on foot by 10:30 a.m. After spending time on the premises till 3:30 pm, the man went back to the hotel and again came back to the airport by 8 pm and was at the airport till 12 midnight.

The man then went to the railway station next morning and boarded Maveli Express to Kasaragod and arrived home in Eriyal, followed by visiting his brother and a friend, going to a local club and a saloon, playing football with children, visiting a State Bank of India branch, attending Juma Namaz in a local mosque and entering another local club.

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After testing positive, he attended three marriage functions, a house warming function and a cradle ceremony function other than meeting two local MLAs of the Indian Union Muslim League.

The district administration said that this route map is not complete as the patient is yet to disclose complete information. There was a steep rise in the number of positive cases in the 48 hours in Kerala and especially in Kasaragod.

To date, in Kerala the total number scaled 56, including the first three cases who recovered from COVID-19. Among the rest, three persons above eighty years are being given critical care.

In Kasaragod, eight more cases were reported after the dubious episode of one individual and the total rose to 10. On March 20, the state government ordered a complete shutdown in the district except for essential services.

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