Attukal Pongala festival today under growing Covid-19 shadow

Our Bureau Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on March 08, 2020 Published on March 09, 2020

Five new cases in Pathanamthitta district



The famous Attukal Pongala festival, reputedly among the largest congregation of women at any place, gets under way in the Kerala capital under the growing shadow of the Covid-19 virus.

Scenario changes overnight

The State Health Minister KK Shailaja has warned that any person with cold, cough or respiratory illness should keep away in the larger interests of the health and wellbeing of lakhs of women pilgrims expected to participate in the annual festival. The Minister extended the warning to devotees from abroad who fly in to offer Pongala to the deity at the Attukal temple, and asked them to conduct the ritual from the compound of the hotels where they are put up.

Earlier, the Minister had said that there was no issue with the conduct of the festival. But the scenario changed overnight on Sunday, with fresh five cases of infections breaking out in Pathanamthitta district.

The renewed threat of virus-spread rose with three of a family landing in Kochi on February 29 from Italy, the worst affected after China, testing positive. The two others infected were their kin in Kottayam whom they had gone visiting.

It is learnt that the family had visited the office of the Superintendent of Police, Pathanamthitta, in connection with the renewal of a job permit in Italy. The staff of this office have also been put under watch. Meanwhile on Sunday, the State Government put out a notice requesting all passengers landing in Kochi on Qatar Airways Flight No QR 126 Venice-Doha on February 28 and on Flight No QR 514 Doha-Kochi on February 29, to call 0471-2552056 or toll free number 1056 or present themselves to the nearest hospital.

Condition of all five ‘stable’

The fresh development caught the State government off guard, it seems, even as it was emerging from the shock of reporting the country’s first three infections. The three patients had been discharged home from ‘isolation’ wards in hospitals and the number of people being kept in home quarantine had started to ebb.

All five newly identified carriers are now in ‘isolation’ wards and are stable, the Minister said. What is of concern is the fact these persons had to be removed to hospital against their wishes. Subsequently, test results had proved that they were infected.

‘Wilful violation of law’

Such irresponsible behaviour of inbound travellers was unacceptable, especially when the State had declared a general public health alert. Since the travellers from Italy had landed at the Cochin International Airport at Nedumbassery, the vigil has been tightened in the district of Ernakulam.

Refusal of incoming travellers from affected destinations to report themselves in would have to be considered a wilful violation of law, and dealt with accordingly. The State Government has gone on record many times requesting those flying in from destinations such as Iran, Italy, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and China to report themselves to the nearest hospitals voluntarily, the Minister said.

Published on March 09, 2020

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