Poonthura, a coastal region in Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, has become a hotspot in Kerala where coronavirus ‘super spreading’ was identified. The government had earlier confirmed a local spread in the area. On Thursday, out of the 95 positive cases in Thiruvananthapuram district, 77 were from Poonthura. On Wednesday, among the 64 positive cases in the district, 54 were from Poonthura where the infection spread through contact.
“Poonthura is the first super spreading area in the state. A positive case reported from a fish market resulted in an increase in cases in the entire district. Strict action will be taken against people in the area who come out,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media on Thursday.
Apart from the existing police force, a team of 25 commandos from the Special Armed Police (SAP) and six teams of health workers have been deployed in Poonthura on Thursday.
On July 1, there was just a single case reported from Poonthura. A fish seller from Kumarichantha, a fish market in the area, who had been travelling to Kanyakumari to get fish had tested positive, probably the first positive case in the area.
It was on July 3 that the second patient, a relative of the fish seller, tested positive. Till then there were only these two cases from the area. The next day, three persons, a father and son who lived near the Poonthura police station and another person from Kumarichantha, also tested positive. One of them was a medical representative who had visited many hospitals, doctors, medical shops and many other places, which was a cause of great concern for the authorities.
From July 5 onwards, there was a sudden spike in cases – 13 people from the area tested positive. On July 7, it increased to 27 cases and then to 54 the next day. Among the patients were a one-year-old to a 66-year-old. There were a lot of children under 15.
A total of 212 cases have been reported from Poonthura in the last few days, either among residents or people who had visited the place.
On Wednesday, a total ban was imposed on fishing and selling fish in the coastal areas. People were not allowed to come in or leave the Poonthura region.
On Monday, a new coronavirus testing centre was established at the Primary Health Centre at Puthenpally ward near Poonthura. A new rule was also implemented in which people who came out of their house unnecessarily were to be shifted to far away quarantine centres.
Devaswom and Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran confirmed to the media that ‘super spreading’ had occurred in the region and that such rapid spreading had not been reported anywhere else in the state. He had earlier said that the area was witnessing local transmission. Till Wednesday, among the 600 samples tested, 119 returned positive. It was also found that one of the patients had 120 primary contacts.
“The super spreading concept has happened in many places. A person who has a high virus load can turn into a super spreader. Not maintaining physical distance in closed areas where there is a lot of interaction (like a prayer group inside a worship centre or a bidding place at the harbour where people talk loudly together) and many other factors can cause super spreading. This might have happened in Poonthura too. We cannot find out who the super spreader is, tests cannot show that. Usually people with less symptoms cannot be spreaders, but we cannot confirm that. It needn’t be the first person who got infected, anyone in the chain can be a spreader,” Dr Sulphi M Noohu, Kerala vice president, Indian Medical Association, told TNM.
Noorjahan S, Puthenpally ward councillor, said that they were disinfecting all public places frequently.
“We’ve no idea how this happened here. Anyway, let the studies find out how it spread. We’re taking all measures to prevent further spread. We’re disinfecting all places. Police and other forces are making sure that nobody comes out. We have six new quarantine centres now,” she said.
Poonthura ward councillor Peter Solomon said that around 120 to 130 samples are tested each day at the centre. “We need more testing. Apart from that, ambulance services are poor, people who tested positive had to wait a long time to get to the hospital. Women and children had to wait a long time to get tested. There are reports that the facilities at a few private hospitals where people got admitted are very poor,” he added.