Five new cases in Kerala, state authorities talk tough
Thiruvananthapuram/New Delhi: The number of coronavirus cases rose to 39 in India on Sunday, after a couple and their son, who had flown from Italy last month and evaded airport screening, and their two relatives tested positive in Kerala, prompting the state authorities to warn of strict action, including prosecution, against those hiding travel history and symptoms of the infection.
Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja said the state has been put on high alert in the wake of the new cases, reported more than a fortnight after India’s first three coronavirus patients -medical students from Wuhan- were discharged from hospitals in the state.
The minister said all the passengers who travelled with the infected family in the Venice-Doha Qatar airlines QR 126 flight on February 29 and Qatar Airlines flight QR514 from Doha to Kochi that arrived at 8.20 am on March 1 should get in touch with health authorities.
The airlines, in a statement, said it was working with Indian health authorities in this regard.
The state health department said failure to inform authorities about travel history and symptoms would be considered a crime, while the state police separately said it was “illegal and punishable” if anyone hid such information.
“Strict action, including prosecution, will be initiated against them. Directives of various government agencies should be followed in this regard,” a police release said
The Kerala government, however, has decided to go ahead with “Attukal Pongala,” one of the largest all-women religious congregations to be held on Monday, while issuing fresh guidelines including asking those coming from abroad especially from the affected countries to make the offering in their hotels itself.
The minister said the couple in their fifties and their 24-year old son had taken a flight from Italy to India on February 29 and evaded health screening at the airport. The two others affected are their relatives, Shailaja said, adding they hail from Ranni in Pathnamthitta district, she said.
“As of now their condition is stable. But there is need to take extra care”, the minister. Two nonagenerian members of the family will be shifted to the Kottayam Medical College hospital s a precauation, she added.
The three, who had returned from Venice, at first refused to cooperate with health officials, following which they were forcibly admitted to the isolation ward of the Pathnamathitta general hospital.
“The Italy-returned family hid their travel details from the health authorities. Such practises have to seen as a crime. Those who come from countries like Iran, Italy, South Korea and China should report to the health department immediately,” Shailaja said.
The number of COVID-19 cases in India, which was just six till last Tuesday, now stands at 39 including 16 Italians. The figure also includes the three Kerala patients who were discharged last month following recovery.