KASARAGOD: Home isolation of covid patients is the major reason for the rising number of cases in Kasaragod and the district should reduce its reliance on home quarantine, recommended the high-level team sent by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The ministry sent a six-member team to take stock of the covid situation in Kerala. Two members of the team -- Dr P Raveendran, a former deputy director of the Disaster Management Cell of the Union Health Ministry, and Dr K Raghu, additional director of Kozhikode-based National Centre for Disease Control -- visited Kasaragod on Monday.
They found that 37% of the covid patients in Kasaragod district contracted the disease from those in quarantine in their own house.
Kasaragod has 8,719 active cases of covid. Of them, only 968 patients, or 11% are in hospitals or first or second-line covid care centres or domiciliary covid-care centres run by local bodies.
That is, nearly 90% of covid patients in the district are in home quarantine.
The Union ministry's officials, who held meetings with health officials and collector Bhandari Swagat Ranveerchand, said home isolation should not exceed 40%.
"We have accepted their recommendation and have begun work on it," said National Health Mission district programme officer Dr A V Ramdas.
He said the local bodies have been informed of the decision and they have been asked to increase beds in domiciliary covid-care centres.
However, another health official said the Central team read the numbers slightly wrong.
A covid patient would infect his contacts two days before they show symptoms. "So even before a person is tested positive, they would have infected their family members. So there is little incentive in shifting everybody to an institution," the official said.
In any case, patients with comorbidities or serious symptoms are shifted to hospitals. Also, patients from vulnerable communities and colonies are shifted to institutions irrespective of their condition.
In Kasaragod, the official said, there were beds to accommodate only 3,000 covid patients in institutions, which include government and private hospitals, CFLTCs, and domiciliary covid-care centres. That comes to around 35% of the present active cases.
Officials, however, said they would reduce the dependence on home isolation. "Patients who have no symptoms prefer to stay in quarantine in their own houses. We will have to persuade them to move to institutions, which will not be as comfy as their homes," said Dr Ramdas.
Improve Contact tracing
The Union Ministry team also asked the health officials to work on contact tracing. As of now, the district is tracing only three contacts of an infected person. Dr Raveendran and Dr Raghu said at least 10 contacts should be traced. In the best-case scenario, 30 contacts of an infected person should be traced, they said.
Officials in the district said contact tracing worked in the early stage of the pandemic. "Now the seroprevalence in Kerala is 44.4%. That is nearly half of the population has the antibody," said an official.
In the early days, the department used to trace 100 contacts. Now, the focus is on targeted testing and treating the patients, he said.