Around 50,000 COVID-19 patients can be treated at a time in Kerala as new arrangements come into place, with an increased number of First Line Treatment Centres (FLTC). Fifty six of these have been arranged as the state battles the third wave of the coronavirus infections with over 7,500 active cases.
Health Minister KK Shailaja said that experts have forecast a surge in the number of cases next month but sounded confident that the government can manage any such situation with the measures being taken by it.
"We already have two COVID hospitals in each district. Then as the number (of cases) increased, we opened one FLTC for each COVID hospital. Thus we already have 28 FLTCs. Now we have given direction to increase the number to 56. So one COVID hospital will have two FLTCs," Minister Shailaja told PTI.
She also said that the government had already given directions to open in each of the 941 panchayats at least one FLTC where a special medical team would take care of asymptomatic and less complicated patients.
Explaining the functioning of the FLTCs, Minister Shailaja said that the idea was to decongest medical college hospitals where seriously ill patients would be treated.
"It can be schools, hostels or any other large building. The government has already released funds for purchase of necessary furniture and equipment at these centres. All districts have been given Rs 10 crore each. The panchayats have been given Rs 50,000 as an advance fund to set up the FLTCs," the Minister said.
When asked about reports on a surge in the number of cases in coming months, the Minister said that a particular number cannot be predicted at any time.
"We cannot predict that a particular number of cases will be reported within a particular time period. But experts are predicting a surge in the number of cases in August. We hope the surge can be controlled with our effective mitigation process," she said.
In order to overcome the shortage of human resources in the FLTCs, the state government has decided to recruit temporary staff.
"Till now, our containment strategy, testing process and quarantine method have helped us in controlling the spread and reducing the death rate. We need to effectively continue with that," Minister Shailaja said.
The Health department was able to contain the "local spread below 10%" and the aim was to bring it down to five, the Minister said.
On formation of local clusters in Thiruvananthapuram, Minister Shailaja said that people from the bordering Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu depend on hospitals here for treatment. Besides, many also come to the state capital for their livelihood.
One person who came from Tamil Nadu infected many in Kumarichantha area.
The government was implementing a "cluster care" method to contain the spread of the virus in such clusters by strengthening testing, treatment and quarantine. Such areas will be divided into three zones with an IAS officer, a senior police official and a medical officer assigned to handle the situation, Minister Shailaja said.
She also said that a similar situation emerged at Kayamkulam in Alappuzha district and Chellanam and Aluva fish markets in Ernakulam districts and the spread was contained.
On declaring community transmission in a region when no other state has done it yet, the Minister said that "it was always better to be transparent" with the people.
"If people come to know about the seriousness of the situation, they can behave accordingly for their own safety. Even in these two regions, where the community transmission has taken place, the authorities have managed to keep the mortality rate under check," the Minister said.
(With PTI input)