Kerala’s Wayanad district is a typical example of how indiscretion on the part of one person can jeopardise the entire defence against COVID infection.
The district, which for most part of the anti-Covid campaign remained in the green zone, is now paying a heavy price for its proximity to Tamil Nadu, where the Koyambedu market in Chennai has become the epicentre of coronavirus infection in the South. Wayanad has now become one of the worst-affected areas, where a number of panchayats have been declared as containment zones.
A truck driver who brought vegetables from the Koyambedu wholesale market for fruits and vegetables, described as the biggest market in Asia, violated his home quarantine provisions and indiscriminately mingled with people, infecting 15 others, including his own family members.
The case is being cited by healthcare experts for the pitfalls of home quarantine, an issue on which the state government and the Union health ministry are not on the same page. While the Centre insists on 14 days of institutional quarantine for all those who are coming from outside, the state government has been pushing its case for 7 days of institutional quarantine and another one week of home isolation.
Public health experts say a slight slackening of vigil on the part of the district authorities has led to the anti-climax, as the district had remained Covid-free for several weeks. Now it is among the most vulnerable districts and has 19 active cases, which is the highest number for any district.
The truck driver returned from Koyambedu market on April 26 evening and was asked to be under home quarantine. His samples were collected on April 28 and he tested positive on May 2. Meanwhile, he had interacted with a number of people at a function in connection with the fixing of his son’s marriage.
A similar incident of irresponsible action by a CPI-M leader and his wife has created a fresh wave of infection in Kasargod after the couple went to the border checkpost and smuggled in a relative who had come from Mumbai by road, but had no pass. The man later tested positive for Covid, but the activist couple had been busy with their public life, interacting with a number of people.
The CPI-M leader had even gone to a doctor, complaining about throat pain, but failed to report the fact that he and his wife had driven their Mumbai relative home in their car. The police has registered a case against the couple under the new law dealing with epidemics.
The district unit of the CPI-M has also decided to punish the couple for their irresponsible behaviour. Kasargod, which had effectively brought the infection under control after it had threatened to assume characteristics of a community spread in two earlier waves, is now again facing such a threat and is considered highly vulnerable along with Wayanad.