Kerala took a step closer to officially confirming local transmission of COVID-19 in Thiruvananthapuram city with the district reporting a whopping 105 cases of local transmission today.
Five cluster outbreaks have been identified in Thiruvanthapuram, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said today.
Two ‘large community cluster’ outbreaks of Coronavirus have been identified in Kerala, one in Ponnani and the other in Thiruvananthapuram, he added.
A fish merchant who took his stocks from Thiruvananthapuram harbor and distributed it in several wards has been identified as the index patient in this region, Vijayan said.
“We have reached the stage of ‘super spread’ and that is the first step towards community transmission. If we don’t take care now, we will enter community transmission,” Vijayan said.
The 105 local cases from Thiruvananthapuram raised the total number of local transmission cases in the state in the last 24 hours to 204, higher than the previous record of 141 set yesterday.
Besides these cases of local transmission, 123 people who returned from abroad and 51 people who returned from other states also reported positive for COVID-19.
“This is a dangerous trend,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. “Cases of local transmission was 5-6% of total cases in late June. Yesterday, it was 20%,” he said, adding that today, nearly half the total cases of 416 reported in the state today involve local people.
In addition to the above three categories of patients, there were also 38 cases among central forces, including 35 in the local camp of ITBP.
The numbers are a big setback to the state of Kerala, which had been able to keep local cases in check even as lakhs of people came from COVID-19 hotspots outside the state over the last two months.
“If this continues like this, it won’t take much time for the virus to spread across a densely populated state like Kerala. This is the time to realize that we are facing an immense danger,” Vijayan said.
Cases are coming thick and fast from the Poonthura fishing locality of Thiruvananthapuram, including cases of ‘super spreads’ involving one person spreading the virus to dozens of others.
Vijayan asked people to cooperate to avoid further transmission, and take cues from what happened in a city like Bangalore — which had managed to keep the numbers down — has seen a sharp increase in recent days.
The same also urged Keralites to learn from the successful examples of countries like Vietnam.
“They showed alertness, they showed social discipline. That’s what we need here,” he said.
“Each of us should take care to ensure that we don’t allow anything to take place that can lead to further spread,” he said.
He said “some forces” are trying to consciously undermine government’s efforts to control COVID-19 and efforts were taken to block health workers from entering Poonthura area.
“Unfortunately, UDF leaders are the forefront of this. One Youth Congress leader has spread a message on WhatsApp that antigen tests are useless and show false positives and that this can lead to actual infection.
“There has also been exhortations to locals to hit the streets. Because of this, more than 100 people took to the streets today,” he said, adding that people who spread such rumors will be brought before the law and that antigen tests are effective in quick and on-the-spot diagnosis.
“This is not spontaneous, but the result of conscious efforts…We have enough indications that some opposition leaders are behind this,” he said.
He also criticized the opposition parties for holding protests and demonstrations against the state government over a gold smuggling case.
“They call it protests, but it’s not a protest. It is a cruel act that can plunge the state into infection and chaos,” the chief minister said.
The opposition has been calling for the CM to step down, alleging that a lady who has some links to a senior IAS official in the state government is involved in the smuggling case.
The official has already been told to go on leave, and the Chief Minister has pointed out that smuggling and its investigation are dealt with by investigating agencies belonging to the central government.
The center has asked the National Investigation Agency to conduct a probe into the case.
Vijayan also responded to calls by the Congress party for a CBI investigation into the matter. “[Enforcement of customs] is handled by the center. It is not possible for us to say — don’t use the NIA, use the CBI,” he said.