Health authorities in Kerala are in a state of surprise, if not shock, due to a new trend showing NRIs who have been in quarantine for 25 days or more starting to show COVID-19 symptoms.
The new findings fly in the face of the widespread assumption that Coronavirus infected persons will show symptoms within 14 days of exposure.
Based on the above assumption, high risk cases — such as international travelers and those who have interacted with confirmed COVID-19 cases — are currently released from quarantine after 14 days.
However, as the new cases in Kerala show, this assumption may not be universally valid.
Two out of the eight new cases reported in Kerala today fit the category of delayed onset of Coronavirus symptoms.
The first was a patient from Kozhikode district in Kerala. He had touched down from Dubai on March 18 — 27 days ago — and was put in quarantine.
However, he started showing signs of COVID-19 infection only in the last two days. His test today confirmed SARS Coronavirus 2 infection.
The second case was from Kannur. He too came from Dubai, and landed in the state on March 19 — the day on which India banned international flights.
Both patients have been under a 28-day quarantine under Kerala’s policy of enforcing a 28-day quarantine, instead of the WHO-recommended 14 days.
However, most states in India follow the WHO recommendation of enforcing a 14 day quarantine only.
The exact reason for the delayed expression of COVID-19 symptoms in these patients is not known, but has caused a major headache to health officials in the state.
There have also been unconfirmed reports of people contracting the virus from opening the baggage brought in by NRIs.
Out of the 386 total cases reported in Kerala so far, it is estimated that 300 or more cases trace their origin to non-resident Indians coming from the United Arab Emirates, particularly from Dubai. The remaining are traced mostly to travelers from Europe, including tourists.
Meanwhile, the total number of active COVID-19 infections in the southern state fell by 5 today, as 13 people recovered.
With this, 54.15% of all COVID-19 patients in the state have recovered from the infection, while 0.52% of all Coronavirus infections have resulted in deaths.
The total number of active COVID-19 cases in the state have fallen to 173 from 178 yesterday, while the number of recoveries have risen to 211.
With this, Kerala has slipped to No.12 in the list of Indian states with the highest number of active COVID-19 cases — a chart that it used to top consistently in the early stages of the infection.
The state’s success is attributed to the early lock-down imposed by the Left Front government, as well as the Indian government’s decision to ban international flights on March 19.