A shocking incident of an ambulance driver raping a young Covid patient inside the vehicle has marked Kerala’s worst day in its fight against virus, which also saw an alarming spike in the daily caseload, crossing the 3,000-mark for the first time.
State health minister KK Shylaja had her cup of woes filled to the brim, as the 108 ambulance driver, 29, turned out to be a an accused in a murder case, giving rise to calls for her resignation, owning moral responsibility.
The opposition parties have demanded a high-powered probe as to how the murder accused was appointed as an ambulance driver.
The minister has ordered the dismissal of the driver, who is in police custody. The state's Human Rights Commission has registered its own case. Curiously, the chairman of the human rights body, Justice Antony Dominic, had some time ago warned the state police chief about the need to be watchful about the conduct of ambulance drivers, in the wake of certain incidents of misbehaviour.
The shocking incident happened in the early hours of Sunday, when the driver was taking two women patients from Adoor, some 80kms from the state capital, to a Covid-designated hospital in Kozhencherry in Pathanamthitta district. The patients were a 20-year-old girl and a housewife, 40.
While the ambulance driver had instructions to drop the young woman to a hospital in Pandalam, about 10 km away, and then proceed to Kozhencherry with the other middle-aged woman, he chose to drop the housewife first and then took the ambulance to a place near the abandoned Aranmula airport, where he raped her before driving her to the hospital in Pandalam.
There was no presence of any health worker in the ambulance, which raises doubts about the possibility of the incident having been pre-planned.
It was the worst day of the state’s anti-Covid campaign, as the daily caseload of 3,082 suggested that the fears of a spike following the Onam festival were coming true. Only the other day, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had cautioned that the next two weeks would be crucial as people were seen throwing caution to wind in coming out on the streets and other public places in connection with Onam celebrations.
Of the 3,082 new cases for the day, 2,844 contracted the disease through contacts, which shows the huge challenge being faced by the health authorities. Further, in about 200 cases, the source of infection is unknown. 10 more deaths were reported in the day.
Kerala Finance Minister Dr T M Thomas Isaac tested positive on Sunday, the first in the cabinet to contract the infection, and has been shifted to the medical college hospital here, sources said. His swab samples were taken as he had a minor cold and he tested positive on Sunday.