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Covid-19: Kerala launches ‘break the chain’ mass campaign

Our Bureau Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on March 16, 2020 Published on March 16, 2020

Kerala has launched a 'break the chain' campaign to fend off the Covid-19 spread, in the wake of a second wave of infections after a virus carrier family returning from Italy had created a cluster in Pathanamthitta district.

More expected arrivals from affected countries could possibly test the state's vulnerability, prompting the health department to be ready with a rearguard action, and hence the new mass campaign.

Earlier in February, the state had smartly handled an initial scare in which three students returning from China carried the virus home, but were nursed back to health and discharged from hospital.

Two more cases identified

State Health Minister KK Shailaja officially declared the 'break the chain' campaign to sensitise the public about the mandatory need for keeping personal hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus.

It had coincided with the identification of two positive cases on Sunday, including a UK national on a visit to the state. This takes the total number to 21 cases currently undergoing treatment.

Shailaja said that the government has so far been be able to contain the spread because of early surveillance and people's support. "We need to evolve personal hygiene as a healthy habit and wash our hands and face after coming into public contact. This can help break the chain of virus infection."

Separately, the State government is pro-actively handling the reported shortage of face masks for health activists and hospital staff by getting the tailoring units of jails across the state Kerala to produce them.

Face masks from jail tailors

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday announced that directions were given to engage the tailoring units of prisons. "It has commenced on a war footing basis," he tweeted. The first batch of masks produced by the Central Prison in Thiruvananthapuram were handed to officials of the health department.

Kerala State Drugs and Pharmaceuticals (KSDP), a public sector undertaking based in Alappuzha, has begun production of hand sanitisers, in order to beef up availability.

The immediate target is to produce one lakh bottles in 10 days for the Kerala Medical Services Corporation. Industries Minister EP Jayarajan said that these will be made available to the public at a fraction of the price charged by private companies.

Hand sanitisers available in the market cost anywhere between ₹150 to ₹200 for 100 ml, while KSDP will sell them for ₹125 for a 500 ml bottle. The first load of 500 bottles were dispatched to Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts on Friday.

Tab on quarantines

The hand sanitiser is being prepared based on a formula approved by the World Health Organisation. According to Jayarajan, a decision will be taken later on its manufacturing on an industrial scale at KSDP.

Separately, the State government has decided to recruit and train health volunteers to monitor the home quarantines and brief them about the risks of breaking the home quarantine instructions.

"We have been keeping a tab on them through GPS tracking and have found some of them sneaking out," Shailaja said. "A team consisting of a health worker, police official and health volunteer will visit every home where persons are quarantined and verify their status," she added.

Around 5,000 persons had expressed their willingness to join as health volunteers earlier. But an appeal to health professionals and others on Sunday to join after its decision to screen passengers on trains and road elicited as many as 700 responses in a matter of two hours.

Surveillance tightened

Meanwhile, a high-level meeting of officials chaired by Chief Minister here on Sunday has decided to step up surveillance in tourist destinations after a tourist from the UK had tested positive.

The tourist had managed to give the slip to the resort where he was staying, and made it to the CIAL Airport in Kochi and boarded an Emirates flight bound for London via Dubai.

Health officials reached the airport just as the flight was about to depart and the passenger was immediately off-loaded, along with 19 others with him. The rest of the passengers were allowed to fly out later.

The health department has closed down the tourism department-owned Tea County resort in Munnar where the tourist had stayed and directed the employees to remain home quarantined.

A Keralite doctor returning from an official trip to London tested positive in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday. Officials said that movements of foreign tourists within the state will now be monitored without putting them to avoidable inconvenience.

Published on March 16, 2020

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