A senior official told TNM that the idea is to test asymptomatic persons who work in places where there is more human interaction.

Kerala to test 3000 asymptomatic persons in new testing strategyImage for representation
Coronavirus Coronavirus Monday, April 27, 2020 - 14:08

In a move to check for community spread of COVID-19, Kerala has begun random testing of asymptomatic persons. The state has formulated a new testing plan to find ‘any undetected COVID-19 positivity among the general population of Kerala’. The state plans to test 3,000 samples from the general population and all these tests will use the RT-PCR (real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) kit – considered the gold standard to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. The 3,000 samples exclude those who will anyway be tested for the virus based on the current protocol in place in the state.

According to the new augmented testing norm, accessed by TNM, individuals have been divided into 10 priority groups and they will be tested even if they do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 – fever, cough or breathlessness.

As per the augmented testing strategy dated April 26, 15% of samples will be primary contacts of confirmed cases; 15% will be healthcare workers in non-COVID-19 hospitals; 15% will be field level healthcare workers like ASHA. Ten percent of the samples will be drawn from asymptomatic elderly persons; 10% from interstate travellers and 10% from pregnant women, and 10% from frontline workers like local self-government department workers, police, salespersons in shops, and workers in market places. The remaining will be drawn from quarantined persons with co-morbidities who are above 30 years (5%), secondary close contacts of confirmed cases in quarantine (5%), and contacts of travellers in quarantine (5%).

“The idea is to test people who work in places where there is more human interaction,” a senior official told TNM.

The number of samples in each district will be taken from areas that are considered hotspots. While 300 samples each will be drawn from Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode and Malappuram, 200 samples will be taken from Ernakulam, Idukki, Kottayam, Kollam, Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram. 150 samples each will be tested from Alappuzha, Wayanad, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur.

Two District Collectors TNM spoke to confirmed that the collection for random sample testing began on Sunday.

This, after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan directed all district collectors and district medical officers to conduct more COVID-19 examinations during a video conferencing he held on Sunday.

Districts like Kannur, Idukki and Kasaragod had already started testing asymptomatic people. The state’s overall testing numbers had reduced over the past few days. Since April 19, the state has tested only between 400-600 samples per day. With the Chief Minister’s announcement, these numbers are likely to go up.

11 new COVID cases

Kerala reported 11 new cases, including a doctor and two health workers, on Sunday while four people have recovered. The number of active cases are 123 while the total reported cases are 342.

Among the 11 new cases, six were reported from Idukki and five from Kottayam, the two districts that were declared as green zones last week with zero number of cases. In Idukki, one of the patients had returned from Spain and two came from Tamil Nadu. Three people got the infection through contacts among whom one is a doctor. One of the persons who tested positive from Kottayam returned to the state from outside while four got the infection through contacts. Two among them are health workers. Meanwhile three more places – Chathannur and Sasthamcotta of Kollam district, and Manarcaud of Kottayam – have been added to the list of hotspots, taking the total number of hotspots to 87.

Examination at borders will be made strict

The Chief Minister, during his video conference, also directed officials to conduct stricter checks at borders.

“The lockdown has caused indescribable problems to the people. But it’s not possible to give much relaxation at this time. The officials should take a stern stand but at the same time, the approach towards people should be friendly and empathetic. People in hotspot areas shouldn’t step out and hence it should be ensured that they get food materials at home. Those who are stranded in other states are applying in hordes to get back home. But there should be a practical approach in these decisions. The applicants should be convinced about those applications that can’t be processed,” the CM said.

Examination at the borders should be made sterner as the number of cases are on the rise in the border districts. Police should take action in association with the Forest department to prevent people coming into the state using forest paths. Religious heads have assured that there won’t be any joint prayers or meetings and that is being followed. But it has been reported that there are crowds in some mosques. Action should be taken to avoid that, the CM added.

“Farm related work should be continued without any hindrance. Commodities like vegetables should be procured without delay and made available in the markets. District administration should also take care to ensure availability of food materials. The pre-monsoon cleaning drive should be completed swiftly,” the CM directed.

With inputs from Dhanya Rajendran

Also Read: Four staff members of Andhra Governor's office test positive for coronavirus

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