THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In the wake of the high spread of COVID-19, Kerala Health Minister Veena George has called for stepping up vigil for the next four weeks. She said the Onam season saw crowds gathering and as a result many locations have come under threat of the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus. Besides, the threat of a third wave is also looming, she added.
The advisory was issued as offices are set to open after the Onam holidays and laxity in following the protocol will lead to further spread of the infection. “The chances of infection are highest in closed spaces. There should be proper care while having meals together and washing hands,” said the minister.
The minister has called for strengthening the home quarantine system after it was found that laxity in following the protocol led to the infection being spread to other family members. She reminded that the disease could be severe for the elderly and those with co-morbidities.
The minister said the department will increase COVID testing and also asked the public to undergo voluntary testing if they have symptoms. She reminded that vaccinations would not prevent breakthrough infection and cautioned against lowering one's guard after two doses of the vaccine.
The department has made preparations including the supply of oxygen to meet the challenges of the third wave. “Preparations are underway to strengthen oxygen beds and ICU beds from the taluk level hospitals. We have increased the numbers of ventilators,” said the minister. In order to provide expert treatment for severely ill patients admitted at district hospitals, ICUs in hospitals will be connected to the nearby medical hospitals through the internet.
The health minister has directed the department to complete 60 per cent of the work of the paediatric facilities in three months. The department is preparing 744 beds in 48 hospitals. This includes 490 beds with oxygen facilities, 158 high dependency beds, 96 ICUs etc.
The government has also ensured the availability of oxygen after identifying the supply constraints during the second wave. It has stored 870 metric tons of oxygen. The manufacturing units have 500 metric tons and Kerala Medical Services Corporation (KMSCL) has a buffer stock of 80 metric tons. The hospitals have a stock of 290 metric tons. “As many as 33 oxygen generation units are getting ready.
It is capable of producing 77 metric tons of oxygen. Already 9 units are functional and 38 more will be functional soon,” said the minister. In addition to this, private hospitals have set up 13 metric ton oxygen plants.