Ernakulam tops state in active COVID-19 cases, treatment facilities expanded

Fifty percent of the total ICU beds and ventilator beds in both public and private hospitals in the districts have been filled by both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients at present.
Health workers inside a COVID-19 treatment centre
Health workers inside a COVID-19 treatment centre
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Kerala’s Ernakulam district is grappling with the massive surge in COVID-19 cases. With over 18,000 people being presently infected by the coronavirus, the district tops the state in number of active COVID-19 cases. Fearing that the surge will start to have a toll on healthcare facilities, the district administration has started to expand the COVID-19 treatment capacity on an emergency basis. Stringent regulatory mechanisms have also been mooted to curb the transmission of COVID-19.

As per district authorities, 50% of the total intensive care unit (ICU) beds and ventilator beds in both public and private sector hospitals in Ernakulam, have already been filled by COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. About 35% of the total oxygen beds have also been occupied at present. Oxygen beds will be equipped with medical cylinders to give oxygen support to patients.

“Since cases are increasing at this rate, treatment facilities, especially the number of oxygen beds should be increased,” Collector S Suhas said.

One hundred new oxygen beds have been commissioned in Aluva District Hospital. The PVS Hospital in Kochi, a shuttered hospital which had been taken up by the district administration last year to be converted to COVID-19 treatment centre, will get additional ICU beds. At present, the hospital has 30 ICU beds, but this will be increased to 60.

One hundred new oxygen beds will also be deployed in Fort Kochi Taluk Hospital, which has been converted as a COVID-19 exclusive treatment centre. The Government Medical College Hospital in Kalamassery will also, in a phased manner, be converted to COVID-19 hospital. Last year, during COVID-19 surge in the district, the Medical College was similarly converted to COVID-19 hospital. It has only been a few months since the hospital began normal operations. However, the house surgeons in the hospital have raised opposition against the decision, alleging it will affect their normal medical practice.

The District Collector has also announced that the newly-built super speciality block in General Hospital will also be deployed with 100 new oxygen beds.

The district authorities have also decided to reopen the closed COVID-19 First Line Treatment Centres (CFLTCs). CFLTCs are centres where patients with minor symptoms or asymptomatic patients are admitted. The district, which had hundreds of such centres last year, was shut down after the COVID-19 cases were reduced.

Though only three CFLTCs – Kothamangalam, Mattancherry and Paravur – had been functioning, on Tuesday, 10 new CFLTCs were opened in Thirumarady, Chottanikkara, Vadavucode-Puthencruz, Mulanthuruthy, Kizhakkambalam, Mazhuvannur, Chendamangalam, Puthenvelikara, Alangad and Thuravur gram panchayats.

Domiciliary care centres (DCCs) will also be started in all panchayats. Such centres will give directions to those with symptoms. In the tribal hamlet of Ernakulam’s Kuttampuzha, the panchayat tribal shelter has already been converted to a DCC. Patients with no quarantine facilities at home will also be admitted in DCCs.

Stringent regulations in place

Meanwhile, the district administration has also taken measures to curb the further transmission of the disease. On Tuesday, Ernakulam Collector announced more regulations for containment zones and micro-containment zones, which will come into force from Wednesday.

According to this, not more than five persons can assemble in such areas and police are ensuring no one enters or leaves these areas without a valid reason. Dine-in facilities in restaurants inside such zones have been banned. However, food can be sold as parcels until 9 pm.

In religious institutions, rituals alone can be held without a public crowd. Major markets and shopping zones in the regions should only function till 7.30 pm.

The Collector has also appointed 140 gazetted officers as additional sectoral magistrates to ensure that COVID-19 protocol is being implemented in the district. This is in addition to the 60 sectoral magistrates at present. The officers will be implemented in spots where there is high transmission of the disease.

The sectoral magistrates are given duties to check complaints against COVID-19 protocol violation, to ensure quarantine is conducted properly, and also to check other regulations such as wearing masks and physical distancing, an official of Ernakulam District administration said. The sectoral magistrates are also given power to shut down those shops and establishments that violate regulations for two days.

In another regulatory mechanism, district authorities have started to announce houses and streets where COVID-19 patients are reported from, as micro-containment zones. “This can be easily tracked by people through COVID-19 Jagratha portal,” an official release by district administration states.

Involvement of local bodies

Similar to last year, the district authorities have ensured the participation of the local bodies to effectively handle COVID-19 regulation on the ground.

“Local Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) will be formed and these ward level teams will handle the COVID-19 regulation and will carry out necessary immediate intervention at the local level,” according to a statement released by the District Collector following a COVID-19 review meeting held on Tuesday.

The responsibilities of ERTs include house visits to assess the health condition of COVID-19 patients who are under home quarantine, and ensure transportation facilities to COVID-19 patients to reach hospital.

The district authorities have also planned to restart the community kitchen facility, which will provide free food. Local bodies have also been directed to find destitute persons in the region and ensure accomodation and food for them.

Migrant workers

Ernakulam district also has one of the highest migrant worker populations. The Labour Department in the district has begun measures to ensure protection of the migrant workers.

A programme in the name ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ has begun. As part of this, special control rooms  have been set up where the migrant workers can contact and voice their requirements in their own languages. Timely services can be ensured to the workers through this. The contact numbers of the control room are: 9072303075, 9072303076.

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