Reethu, a story teller, a person often found between the pages of a book or contemplating the nuances of life.
With India's first three coronavirus patients - all from Kerala - being cured and declared free to move around, the southern state prepared itself to be coronavirus-free. However, with the sudden spike in the number of positive cases in the country since last week, six are from Kerala.
On Sunday, March 8, five people from the same family tested positive for coronavirus in Pathanamthitta District. Three of them - a couple and their son - had returned from Italy. Two of their kins then contracted the infection from them.
The latest case is of a three-year-old in Ernakulam, who has a travel history to Italy. The child is the youngest in the country to be infected.
The family of three had returned to Kochi on March 1 and had evaded health screening at the airport. It was after two of their neighbours/relatives who got admitted to the hospital with coronavirus symptoms that the family's travel history came to light, the state Health Minister KK Shailaja said at a press meet, pointing out their behaviour as "irresponsible". Not only had the family hid their travel history but was also hesitant to get admitted to the hospital, the Minister added.
"Because of this family not revealing their travel history, the health dept will now have to work harder. If this family had told us earlier, we could have saved them, isolated them and everyone in the immediate surrounding. Because they hid the information, we are under so much difficulty now; we have to go to all the places they went to and trace all the people they met, who will all be under so much tension now," the Minister said.
"All the people have to do is tell their travel history to a medical officer nearby; we don't even ask them to go far. We'll take care of everything afterwards. We'll protect them and the people around," added Shailaja.
Taking serious cognizance of this negligence, the state health department on Sunday, March 8, warned of stringent action against those hiding their travel history and symptoms.
"If any violations of the advisories issued by the Department of the Health Govt of Kerala and Govt of India is noticed, stringent action will be taken under TV&M Public Health Act," the Health and Family Welfare Department said in a statement.
The Health Department has issued a directive making it mandatory for those who come from coronavirus-affected nations - especially from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran - to inform the department at the earliest. They are also directed to be under house surveillance for 28 days
"Those returning from Corona-affected nationals should contact us at the earliest. If they don't volunteer themselves, it will be regarded as a crime," Shailaja said. The Minister also urged neighbours of such travellers to report to the health department.
"What are you going to lose if you are under quarantine? You may have to skip work, but if you are not alive then how are you going to go to work," the Minister said. "You may not be able to attend weddings and events. You may have to postpone your functions. People don't like doing all this. But isn't saving your life and those around more important?" the Minister asked.
"People should remember that there are many from the health department who have been struggling for days to contain the virus. They can't take leave. We are not saying this is difficult for us, this is our duty and we work through day and night. Despite all this, to hide about their travel history to satisfy their personal wishes is a crime they have committed to society. I have never used such harsh language. I am pained to say this," she added.
The State Police further said that such violations would be considered a crime and that it was "illegal and punishable" if anyone hid such information. "Strict action, including prosecution, will be initiated against them. Directives of various government agencies should be followed in this regard," a police release said.
Following the report of the fresh cases, Kerala was put on high alert. The minister said all the passengers who traveled with the infected family in the Venice-Doha Qatar airlines QR 126 flight on February 29 and Qatar Airlines flight QR514 from Doha to Kochi that arrived at 8.20 am on March 1 should contact the health authorities.
At present, a total of 1,116 people are under surveillance. Of this, 967 people are under home quarantine and 149 in isolation wards at various hospitals.Also Read: Public Outreach To Doctors' Training: Kerala Is Leading Fight Against Coronavirus
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