New Delhi: The Kerala government on Monday declared the novel coronavirus epidemic as a “state calamity” after a third student tested positive for the infection in the state.
Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja said the government has declared the epidemic as a “state calamity”, on the advise of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in order to take all necessary steps to ensure that the outbreak is effectively controlled.
Shailaja said the decision was taken at a meeting of the apex committee of the State Disaster Management Authority chaired by Chief Secretary Tom Jose, hours after the third positive case in India was confirmed from Kerala.
A medical bulletin issued by the government said the health status of all the three students, who tested positive for the virus, was “satisfactory”.
Principal Health Secretary Rajan Khobragade said with the declaration of the situation in Kerala as a "calamity", the entire state machinery will gear up to face the situation and medical officers on leave would have to report for duty.
Two students from Kerala, who studied in Wuhan in China, the epicentre of the epidemic, had earlier tested positive for the virus in Thrissur and Alappuzha.
Till date, a total of 2,239 people, who travelled from the novel coronavirus-affected countries, including China, have been identified and placed under surveillance in Kerala, it said. Of them, as many as 2,155 are under home quarantine and 84 admitted to isolation wards in hospitals.
The health department has identified 82 people who had come in contact with the three positive patients. As many as 40 are from Thrissur and rest from other districts. "Some of them are in isolation, others are in home quarantine," said Shailaja.
Coming down on those who had failed to report to authorities after returning from the virus-hit country, where the epidemic has claimed over 360 lives so far, she said this was "dangerous".
“What they are doing by not reporting is very dangerous,” she said.
“An alert has been issued that anyone who has returned from China has to get medical attention. There have been cases when such people have been skulking and this is in no way acceptable as the lives of all are precious,” she said.
“Moreover it is from Kerala that the maximum number of students go to Wuhan and hence we have to go forward very cautiously as the density of population here is high and so we have decided to set 28 days as the quarantine period,” added Shailaja.
Special control rooms have been opened in all the 14 districts of the state.
Khobragade said they have also requested the central government to cancel the annual training of district collectors at the training institute in Mussoorie.
As coronavirus has been declared a state calamity, the health department will not wait for any positive results to come out and all districts will initiate action with the same seriousness.
Shailaja said the health department has assigned 178 counsellors as part of its "psycho-social service" to talk to those under observation and to their families.
"Till now around 372 people have been given counselling. Those who remain under observation and home quarantine are doing a great job to the society. We should be thankful to them. All the 2,239 persons under observation came to us directly, saying they came from China," she said.
Earlier in the state assembly, Shailaja said as soon as the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning on the virus, the state began to take precautionary measures on a "war-footing".
(With inputs from agencies)