Rising COVID-19 cases in the hill district of Wayanad and Kasaragod are causing concern to authorities and contact tracing is proving to be a herculean task amid indications that a truck driver who had recently returned from Koyambedu, a hotspot in Chennai, is suspected to have spread the infection in the hilly district.
The sprawling Koyambedu market, which has over 3,000 licensed shops selling flowers, fruits, vegetables, among others, spread in around 300 acres, has been linked to a recent spurt in coronavirus cases in neighbouring Kerala.
Fifteen of the Wayanad based 52-year-old truck driver’s primary and secondary contacts, including his close relatives, have tested positive for the virus.
On Friday, Wayanad reported five more cases, taking the tally to 19, the highest in the state. In Kasaragod, another north Kerala district, days after reporting nil cases, the graph is on the rise with 13 COVID-19 cases as on Friday.
The district had at a point of time the highest number of positive cases but managed to bring it down to nil cases, thanks to strict containment measures. But several people, including health workers, were asked to go into quarantine after a ruling CPI(M) local politician tested positive for COVID-19 recently.
The politician had on May 4 picked up a relative from Thalapady, who had reached the state border from Mumbai without pass. Subsequently, the politician’s wife, two young sons and the Mumbai returnee all tested positive.
At least 50 people, including 17 health workers — two doctors and nurses — had come in contact with the politician and have been quarantined. Their samples have been sent for testing, District Medical officer Dr AV Ramdas told PTI.
Police said the politician, who refused to go into quarantine, had attended a marriage, a funeral, a cradle ceremony besides visiting few hospitals from May 4-11. He has been booked by police under the Kerala Epidemics Act.
The state, which had last week declared that it had flattened the curve, had only 20 active cases as on May 10, but five days later, on May 15, the tally jumped to 80.
The truck driver along with his co-driver (cleaner) had reached the Chennai market on April 21 with a load of ginger and set off on the return journey the next day to reach Wayanad on April 25. He also visited few shops in the area and tested positive on May 2. Though the co-driver’s sample was negative, his son and friend tested positive for the virus.
Wayanad, a ‘green zone’ for 32 days, has now the maximum number of infected patients — 19, causing concern. The district also has the highest number of tribal population in the state.
Three policemen, who had come in contact with the secondary contacts of the cleaner’s son’s friend, who is an accused in a case, have also tested positive following which nearly 100 police personnel, including the Wayanad District Police chief, R Illango, have been asked to quarantine themselves as a precautionary measure.
Police said contact tracing of the accused is a herculean task as he was not cooperating. Police even tried to question him at the isolation ward wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), but in vain.
Mananthavady Municipality, Vallamunda, Edavagah and Thirunelly panchayats have been fully closed and declared as containment zones.
Tribal colonies have been closed and ‘reverse quarantine’ is on to protect the vulnerable from the infection, an official said. All shops have been closed in the area.
In Palakkad, a bakery owner, who came to Kerala through Walayar check-post after visiting Koyambedu, has tested positive. Three Kerala MPs and two MLAs, all belonging to the opposition congress, who had staged a protest against the state government at the border check-post when the bakery owner was there among the stranded people, are among the 200 people who have been asked to go into quarantine by health officials.
In Idukki district, health authorities have still not been able to trace how a bakery owner, who tested positive, got the infection. It is suspected that over 200 to 300 people must have come in contact with him, health department sources said, adding the man could have been infected while serving tea and snacks at his bakery to some truck drivers who had come from Tamil Nadu.