Kerala declares coronavirus outbreak as state disaster


Kochi: Medical staff dispose garbage outside an isolation ward for coronavirus, at a hospital in Kochi, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. India has so far reported three cases of the novel coronavirus, all of them from Kerala. (PTI Photo)

Kochi: Medical staff dispose garbage outside an isolation ward for coronavirus, at a hospital in Kochi, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. India has so far reported three cases of the novel coronavirus, all of them from Kerala. (PTI Photo)

India reported a third novel coronavirus case on Monday with another Keralite student from Wuhan university in China testing positive for the infection as the Left from government declared the epidemic as a state calamity.

Hours after the confirmation of the third coronavirus case from the state, where over 2,000 people are under watch at houses and hospitals, Health Minister K K Shailaja said on the advise of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan it has been decided to declare the epidemic as a “state calamity”.

The move was to take all necessary steps to ensure that the outbreak is effectively controlled, she told reporters on Monday night.

Principal Health Secretary Rajan Khobragade said with the declaration of the situation in Kerala as a “calamity”, the entire state machinery will gear up to face the situation and medical officers on leave would have to report for duty.

The decision was taken at an apex committee meeting of the State Disaster Management Authority chaired by Chief Secretary Tom Jose.

Earlier in the day, the Health Minister informed the state assembly that a medical student become the third person to contract the virus and is an isolation ward at Kanhangad district hospital in Kasaragod.

Two students, including a woman medico, from the state who studied in Wuhan in China had tested positive for the virus in Thrissur and Alappuzha in the last few days.

The health status of all three students, who tested positive for the virus is “satisfactory”, Shailaja said.

“Till date, 2,239 people, who travelled from Corona affected countries have been identified and placed under surveillance in the state, out of which 2155 are under home isolation and 84 have been admitted to isolation facilities,” she said.

The health department has identified 82 people who had come in contact with the three positive patients.

As many as 40 are from Thrissur and rest from other districts. “Some of them are in isolation, others are in home quarantine,” she said.

Coming down on those who had failed to report to authorities after returning from the virus-hit China, where the epidemic has claimed over 360 lives so far, she said this was “dangerous”.

The Health Secretary said they have also requested the central government to cancel the annual training of district collectors at the training institute in Mussoorie.

As the coronavirus has been declared a state calamity, the health department will not wait for any positive results to come out and all districts will initiate action with the same seriousness.

Shailaja said the health department has assigned 178 counsellors as part of its “psycho-social service” to talk to those under observation and to their families.

“Till now around 372 people have been given counselling. Those who remain under observation and home quarantine are doing a great job to the society. We should be thankful to them. All the 2,239 persons under observation came to us directly saying they came from China,” minister said.

Earlier in the assembly, she said that as soon as the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued warning on the virus, the state began to take precautionary measures on a “war- footing”.

There were a lot of Keralites working and studying in China due to which stringent precautionary measures have been taken to contain the spread of the virus in the event of an infected person reaching the state, she said.

Airport and seaports were being continuously monitored and the passengers screened by health officials.

A medical bulletin issued on Monday night said so far, samples of 140 people had been sent to the National Institute of Virology for testing, out of which results of 46 came as negative.

While three are positive, the rest of the results are pending.

Authorities have confirmed that the health condition of all symptomatic persons under isolation in hospitals was “stable”, the bulletin said.

Of the 2,239 people under observation, Malappuram district accounted for the maximum of 343, followed by Kozhikode (310), Ernakulam (297) and Kollam (201).

Meanwhile, the parents of a fourth year Keralite student of Wuhan university, who returned to India on Saturday, has requested the state government to shift their daughter to Kerala from a camp in Delhi.

Her father S Vijaykumar said he was anxious as his daughter was sharing a room with five people. They share a toilet, bathoroom and mess, he added.