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How several districts managed to keep local transmission to zero

Police tapped anti-terrorists squad to draw up a list of high-risk candidates who came from abroad | Health officials quarantine remotest suspect | Train family members to keep zero contact with them

Published: 03rd April 2020 03:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd April 2020 03:20 AM   |  A+A-

A Fire and Rescue Services personnel disinfecting a migrant labour camp at Parakkadavu in Kozhikode using a solution of sodium hypochlorite and water on Thursday | T P Sooraj

Express News Service

KASARAGOD: Is Kerala winning the battle against Covid-19? Just a week into the 21-day lockdown, the state’s health department will not hazard a guess.But top police officers working on the ground is optimistic. “We will smother the virus. Kerala will be the first in the country to do so,” said deputy inspector general K Sethu Raman.He says his optimism is based on hard facts. “In Kozhikode, more than 13,183 persons came from abroad since March 1, but there are only five positive cases,” he said. But that is not the best news. “There is not one case of local transmission in the district,” he said.

In Kannur -- which has the second-highest number of Covid cases in Kerala at 49 -- there is no confirmed local transmission.The same in the case in Wayanad. Around 13,183 persons came from abroad since March 1. “Only three persons are positive and there is no confirmed local transmission yet,” he said.
Malappuram, with one of the highest number of expatriates, have 12 Covid patients, but no case of local transmission.

How did they do it?
For the police and the health department, it was not easy to maintain a clean slate to date.In Kozhikode, the number of positive cases is just six, but it has put 21,485 persons in quarantine -- the highest in the state.
Palakkad also has six positive cases, but it has quarantined 20,038 persons -- the second highest in the state.Though the number of positive cases are on the rise in Kerala now, it was just a matter of time before the graph begins to head south, said Raman, who has an MPhil in development economics.

The police never took the feet off the pedal. With the help of the anti-terrorists squad, the police drew up a list of those who returned from abroad. Then they shortlisted the high-risk persons and sent in the Janamaitri police to ensure they remain in quarantine. “It is a task we took seriously. And the results are showing now,” said the DIG.

Every day, four teams of police officers call up or visit those in quarantine. They also talk to the family members to ensure they do not engage with them. “We have strictly told them: zero contact,” he said.
The police also text the family and insist on reply.

The Health Department has bet big on the initiative of the police. On March 22, the last batch of NRIs arrived in Kerala. “As of now, there is no evidence of a community spread. And the people have become more aware of the virus and are taking precautions,” said Dr Amar Fettle, state nodal officer of Covid-19 initiative.

A coronavirus carrier could meet up to 50 persons in a day, he said. “The lockdown has significantly brought down the number,” he said.The next big challenge was the intra-family engagement. “In big families, there can up to 15 members. So their level of engagement had to be brought down,” he said.

The youngsters were told to care for the elders in the family but without getting close. Elders were also told not to hug children or make them sit on the lap. “In the initial days of the lockdown, people used to go shopping every day. Now it has come down to once in a week and in several families the shopper is just one person. Such decisions have brought down the chances of infecting or contracting the virus to less than 1%,” said Dr Fettle.

The officials are wary because a new study published in ‘Nature’ said 40 per cent to 50 per cent Covid infected persons show no or mild symptoms. “Such covert cases are a big threat. They can pass on the virus to vulnerable people. So it is very important every one stayed low and maintained distance,” said Sethu Raman.

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