Authorities in Thiruvananthapuram suspect that staff members of the old age home who stepped out may have contracted the infection.

Nurses tending to a patient wearing a mask
news Coronavirus Saturday, August 01, 2020 - 20:36

A new COVID-19 cluster identified in Kochuthura, Thiruvananthapuram old age home on Friday has raised concerns among health authorities. 

A total of 36 people in the Shanti Bhavan old age home, run by the Missionaries of Charity church, tested positive for the virus. Out of these, 27 patients are residents of the old age home who are above 60 years of age. Some of them are living with serious comorbidities. The other eight patients include six nuns and staff of the home. 

After the new cluster was identified, the district health authorities sealed the home and tested all the residents. 

All of the infected people were shifted to the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital on Friday night. 

Speaking to TNM on what could have gone wrong, the District Medical Officer said that despite instructions to observe reverse quarantine (protecting vulnerable persons by keeping them away from danger of infection) in old age homes, these were not strictly followed. 

“There are nuns and staff members who step out to buy something. The people inside the old age home were not completely isolated from the outside world. At the same time, there were cases being reported in the locality. We believe that one of the people working in the home (either the nuns or staff) could have been infected and could have spread it. We are investigating the source of the infection,” Thiruvananthapuram DMO Dr Shiju told TNM. 

The DMO added that many of the elderly patients who were admitted to the General Hospital were in no position to even use the toilet by themselves. 

At the same time, care homes in other parts of Kerala too have reported COVID-19 cases. In Ernakulam, as many as 95 fresh cases of the virus were reported from three institutions. They have been identified as the sister institution of the Thrikkakara Karunalayam care home, SD Convent in Chunangamvely and Samaritan in Pazhanganad. 

Following these cases, state Health and Family Welfare Minister KK Shailaja issued strict instructions to all old age and care homes in the state, adding that restrictions would be placed and violators would face punishment.

She added that care homes were instructed not to allow outsiders into the building or people to go outside. However, she said, this was violated in Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam, leading to a spurt in cases.

So far, there are 16 government-owned old age homes and 561 private care homes functioning under the Orphanage Control Board in the state. “Only one person in every old age home will be allowed to go outside for essential supplies. That person will not be allowed to interact with others,” the Health Minister clarified.

The government has also launched a new help desk under the Social Justice Directorate, specifically for the elderly. A number — 1800 425 2147 — has also been provided which will work from 10 am to 5 pm. The 24-hour service can be availed at the Health Department's Disha number 1056.

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