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Coronavirus Outbreak: Why Every Village in Kerala's Kasargod District Has Been Sealed

Policemen keep vigil on a road in Kerala during the lockdown. (News18)

Policemen keep vigil on a road in Kerala during the lockdown. (News18)

With its share of 44 active coronavirus cases, Kasargod has taken Kerala at the top of the nationwide list. The district has been under total lockdown since March 21.

Thiruvananthapuram: On March 13, the last day of the Kerala Assembly session, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) vehemently protested against the Pinarayi Vijayan government’s moves to contain the spread of coronavirus while participating in an adjournment motion on the issue.

NA Nellikkunnu, a Muslim League member and MLA from Kasargod, the northernmost district of Kerala, joined his colleagues in accusing the government of spreading panic.

A week later, the MLA and his party colleague MC Kamarudden, who won a bye-election from the neighbouring Manjeswram constituency in the district in November, had to be home-quarantined for suspected coronavirus infection.

Both of them had come in contact with a 47-year-old man who tested positive for the virus. Although the politicians tried to describe the patient as a poor autorickshaw driver, the man was a frequent traveller to Dubai with more than half-a-dozen trips to the Emirates in the last 100 days under his belt.

The cases of the two MLAs were a teaser to the big story emerging from the district. In less than a week after the Dubai-returned man tested positive, it had the highest number of COVID-19 patients in the state. He was the third patient from Kasargod to have tested positive.

According to a report, the resident of Eriyal village in Kasargod had travelled extensively for six days. He had attended a number of events over the last few days, including a marriage function and a football match, and exposed nearly 1,500 persons in four districts.

On March 25, Kasargod placed the state at the top position in the country, with its share of 44 active Covid-19 cases.

"We were addressing the issue repeatedly through our cable network for the last one month, but people didn’t bother to pay heed to the advisories," said Burhan Thalangara, a journalist with a local channel, in an emotional video that has since gone viral.

Though the district administration took immediate steps to contain the spread, locals were not adequately cooperating.

The district was under total lockdown from March 21. All the villages were cordoned off and even inter-village transport was banned.

"Passports of two persons who defied the directives of health workers and put others in danger would be compounded and they would not be able to fly anymore," said District Collector D Sajith Babu.

Soon, IG Vijay Sakhare took charge of the district police and on Tuesday, those who wandered in the streets despite restrictions were cane charged.

"Those found in the streets can take rest in jails," Sakhare told reporters. This brought some order on Wednesday as the entire nation went into a complete lockdown.

“All volunteer services are banned in the district. If we want volunteers, the district administration or the collector will inform groups,” the DC said.

The district had also reported one of the first three COVID-19 cases in the state in early February -- all of whom were students who had come back from China.

The patient from Kasargod has recovered completely after proper treatment at the district hospital in Kanjangad.

Of the 45 cases in the district till Wednesday, 41 came from abroad and a majority of them belong to the Kasargod town area.

Most people in the district have ties to three places outside the state – Mangalore, Mumbai and Dubai.

While many may not have ever visited the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram, about 560 km away, it is difficult to find a family in the district who doesn’t a member living in the Gulf and has recently returned from there.

According to figures released by the district administration, more than 4,000 people have returned home in the last one month.