Kerala fears community spread as `cases of unknown source’ rise

July 11, 2020 0 By FM

Kerala fears community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as the number of new infections whose sources could not be ascertained increases.

Several cases of infection having unidentified origins have been reported from at least six districts of Kerala so far. These places are under heightened surveillance after being slapped with stricter cubs on shopping and travel. Violators of quarantine norms face punishment. 

“No community transmission of COVID-19 has been detected yet, but the fear exists,” Kerala’s health minister KK Shailaja has maintained.

Health authorities will run more antibody tests to check for community spread of the virus in clusters where cases of unknown origin are reported, she added.

Kerala has facing a fresh wave of outbreak with the arrival of a large number of non-resident Keralites carrying the virus from abroad and other states. Thousands of expatriates are landing in Kerala each day as part of India’s ‘Vande Bharat’ mission for the repatriation of Indians from around the world as the pandemic spreads. 

The southern Indian state, which had won rich praise for successfully quelling the initial wave of infections through meticulous planning and effective quarantine strategies, has started witnessing a steady rise in the graph, with more than 100 new infections reported per day during the second half of June.

The sudden jump in the number of COVID-19 cases from near-zero levels has made the state jittery. To some extent, a spike was anticipated with the return of the expatriate population. 

But what has caused much alarm among health authorities are infections whose origins could not be traced to another patient.

“Infection through contacts” — including those with untraceable origins — accounts for around 10-12% reported cases each day in the state.

India’s health ministry continues to maintain that community transmission has not yet occurred in the country and that it is yet to reach the crucial “fourth phase” of the infection due to effective containment strategies including a lockdown. 

Epidemiologists alert that frequent cases of infections not linked to known sources are an indication that community spread of the pathogen might be occurring. 

Health authorities in many of the worst-hit cities are reluctant to admit that infectious outbreaks are being driven by community spread where cases cannot be traced to identifiable sources, they say.

“Community spread has already happened. Some governments have admitted it. Some governments have not. Even if they don’t, community spread has happened,” said RV Asokan, Secretary General, IMA.

In Delhi, the government could not trace the origins of 50 percent of the patients, he added.