KOCHI: For the first time, Kerala reported no Covid cases from overseas returnees on Wednesday, but the coronavirus infected cases being reported in recent days from among those who returned from foreign countries -- even 24 days after the airports were closed -- is worrying the health authorities. The doctors and health authorities said they suspect this could be an indication of a large number of asymptomatic carriers of the deadly virus in the state.
On Tuesday, of the eight new Covid cases reported, five have come from Dubai while the remaining three got the infection through local contact. Similarly, on Sunday, both the cases reported were UAE returnees while on Monday, one out of the three Covid case reported was from a foreign returnee.
“We feel the airports were lax in letting passengers go directly to their homes after the thermal screening. Except for one case, when a three-year-old Kannur boy who came with his parents from Italy was screened international passenger was detected with possible infection. In the case of the Kannur boy too, it was done due to the insistence of the parents,” said a health official, on condition of anonymity.
“We suspect the foreign returnees may be contracting the coronavirus from their fellow asymptomatic travellers - their partners or children, long after they reached homes,” he said. Dr Praveen G S, epidemiologist at Government Medical College, Kalamassery, said though the incubation period for Covid-19 - the time between exposure to the virus (becoming infected) and symptom onset -- can extend up to 14 days, the emergence of Covid positive cases in Kerala even after 20-23 days indicates that the overseas returnees may be contracting the virus from asymptomatic co-traveller, who could be living in the same house, say the person contracting from his wife or son or viceversa. “In the case of Nipah, there were strong symptoms, which helped us to isolate the person from others.
That’s not the case with Covid-19. The symptoms are not very strong and this is not helping us to isolate the infected person from others. There are a large number of asymptomatic cases out there, which will make the task of tackling the disease very hard,” he said. Dr Tinku Joseph, pulmonologist, AIMS, said in certain instances the incubation period could be more than 14 days. “Cases are reported from different parts of the world in which patients become symptomatic after 25 days of exposure,” he said. “We still don’t have clear cut data. The pattern of the virus is also constantly changing,” Joseph said, adding that there are also chances that a foreign returnee acquiring infected from someone else after coming here or contracting the virus from asymptomatic carriers.