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Kerala: Health dept shares blame for Covid surge, but points to other factors

Experts cite delay in getting test results, lack of resources for monitoring those in home care in rural areas and highly infectious Delta variant

Published: 28th August 2021 06:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th August 2021 06:37 AM   |  A+A-

Kerala's new health minister Veena George

Kerala health minister Veena George (Photo | Facebook)

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The effectiveness of the home quarantine system is being questioned again after Health Minister Veena George herself complained that it is contributing to the spurt in the number new of cases. A study by the health department found that 35% of the infection happens in home quarantine.  The minister said it was primarily due to the laxity in following Covid protocol that led to the spread of infection from one member to others in the family.

Earlier, a central delegation to monitor the pandemic situation also questioned the home quarantine system followed in the state. However, the health minister’s comments attracted criticism from various health experts who also blamed the failures of the department for contributing to the spread within families.
 
While it is clear that people have become increasingly reluctant to move to institutional quarantine, delay in providing test results, poor contact tracing, ill-equipped monitoring in rural areas and presence of highly infectious Delta variant are also factors that contributed to the spread within families. 

Though the testing is done free of cost at government labs, the delay in getting the results has contributed significantly to the spread. “It takes at least three to five days to get a result. A person who tests positive would have spread the infection by then. If the results are given quickly, he or she will behave more responsibly. The presence of a large number of asymptomatic people has also complicated effective quarantining,” said a representative of Kerala Government Medical Officers’ Association (KGMOA).  

According to him, the overreliance on rapid antigen tests which have shown less sensitivity in detecting asymptomatic infection has further complicated the containment strategy. Though the health department’s guideline is to conduct an RT-PCR test if a symptomatic person is negative in a rapid antigen test, doctors complain that people hesitate to repeat the test. It is not just the infection spread that has increased but the deaths too have increased among people in home care.

The delay in approaching hospitals in time result in complications and deaths, thereby putting a question mark on the home care system. The health department has issued guidelines to use public health centres (PHCs) in rural areas to actively monitor the Covid patients in home isolation after it was found that even those in the high-risk category chose to skip timely treatment. The new plan involves PHCs to ensure blood investigation to check the severity of disease and it is done by checking inflammation, clots, signs of damage to body tissues and capacity of the body to use oxygen. 

However, the doctors in PHCs complained that they did not have the resources for the collection and testing of blood samples.

“Increasing the number of tests, contact tracing and isolation are the most important measures to check the pandemic. Contact tracing has almost become nil. The high number of new positives and TPR is the result of compromising on these factors.

It is not the government alone that is responsible for the situation. The lowering of guard by the public also contributed. With the Delta variant in circulation, the pace of infection has also increased,” said Indian Medical Association state secretary Dr Gopikumar P. He said voluntary testing has reduced, leading to the formation of family clusters.

Though testing is done free of cost at government labs, the delay in getting the results has contributed significantly to the spread



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