KOCHI/MALAPPURAM: A 34-year-old pregnant nurse, who recently returned to Kerala from Kuwait, tested positive for Covid-19 on her arrival. But, it was later revealed that she had been undergoing treatment for the disease in the Gulf country. After her first result turned negative, she boarded the flight to Kerala, without waiting for the second. Three expats, all from Kollam, travelled from Abu Dubai to Thiruvananthapuram hiding their infection. They tried to hide the fact even after arrival, but were identified and isolated.
A 24-year-old-woman and her son, both natives of Malappuram, came from Kuwait without waiting for test results though her father-in-law, with whom she and her family stayed, had tested positive.The instances of expats returning to Kerala by concealing their medical history, including Coronavirus infection, have sent the alarm bells ringing in the state. Lacunae in testing protocol followed by other countries and the returnees’ reluctance to reveal their medical condition have increased the chances of virus spread in the state.
“It’s definitely a concern. It has come to the state’s notice that many countries are not following the standard operating procedure (SOP) of allowing only Covid-negative people to board flights. The state had alerted the Centre immediately after realising it. But 14 days of home quarantine and testing those arriving with Covid symptoms are the only options we have. We can’t tell them not to come,” said Dr B Ekbal, who chairs the state expert committee on Covid-19.
Instances of patients hiding infection cast a shadow over evacuation of NRIs
The instances have cast a shadow over the evacuation of NRIs from affected countries. Knowingly withholding information such as being under treatment for Covid or having tested positive will expose co-travellers, flight crew, health workers and others who may come into contact with them to the virus.
As many as 4,355 people have returned to Kerala from abroad ever since the evacuation began on May 7. Of them, 65 have tested positive so far. “It’s a matter other countries must take care of.
If they’re letting an individual board (the flight) knowing that he/she is positive, then it’s a heinous crime. Such acts risk all communities and steeply increase chances of widespread infection,” said former health secretary Dr Rajeev Sadanandan, a member of the government’s Covid special committee.He said one cannot rule out false negative cases. “If they are false negative cases, then the problem is with the tests they underwent. The RT-PCR test is only 67 per cent accurate and we can’t rule out chances of it going wrong,” he said.The incident in which infected people are allowed to fly is in violation of the SOP laid down by the Centre, said a health department officer who is also a member of the state’s rapid response cell for Covid-19.
The officer said the state had raised its apprehension with the Centre and wanted it to take the issue up with embassies/consulates and the countries themselves. “As per the SOP, a passenger will have to share the details including Covid test. But this is not being followed in many countries. With 38 more flights set to arrive from various countries, including the high-risk UK, USA, France and Italy, in the second phase of evacuation, the concern is growing. It’s worrying that only temperature screening is carried out on passengers before they board the flight. The state has limited power to intervene in such international missions,” said the officer.(With inputs from Dileep V Kumar in T’Puram)
Consider state’s plea on test: HC to Centre
Kochi: The High Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to consider the request of the state government to conduct RT-PCR tests on returning expatriates in their countries before they board the flights to India. At the same time, the division bench comprising Justice Anu Sivaraman and Justice M R Anitha said the Centre will undoubtedly do so.
Chennai returnees hide disease
Palakkad: Health authorities’ worst fears of coronavirus-infected persons from other states entering Kerala hiding their disease status came true when two persons from Chennai tested positive on Wednesday.
Tough times ahead, says CM
The chief minister has said that with a significant increase in the number of patients following the return of Keralites from other places, the state is moving to a serious situation.