Kerala detected two more positive COVID-19 cases on Saturday -- both airlifted by the Centre from abroad under its 'Vande Bharat' mission to bring back stranded Indians and expatriates in other countries -- hours after the state declared it has flattened the coronavirus curve.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the new cases are "a warning to those coming back from abroad and for other states to be on the alert". He also said there is a need to strengthen "our mitigation efforts and preventive measures".
Kerala was among the first states in India to report the infection, but it has also earned praise for having effectively managed to tackle the crisis by being among the states with much higher recovery rates and much less outbreak so far.
For several days in the recent weeks, the state has reported either nil or just a few fresh cases. It has only 17 active cases now, while fatalities have been only three. Out of the total 505 infected so far, Kerala has till now cured 485.
Earlier on Saturday, the state said it has flattened the coronavirus curve.
"On the 100th day of confirmation of the first case of COVID-19, Kerala flattened the curve. We are bracing ourselves for the third wave," Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said.
Vijayan on Friday had also said that Kerala has flattened the curve, but cautioned that the state needs to be careful to avoid another wave of the virus.
Vijayan on Saturday said the two fresh cases of coronavirus were foreign returnees who came back from Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on May 7.
"One patient from Idukki who was under treatment has been cured today. The two new cases are now under treatment in Kochi and Kozhikode. They reached on May 7 in the Abu Dhabi-Kochi and Dubai-Kozhikode flights, respectively," he said. "There are 23,930 people under observation in the state out of which 334 are in isolation wards of various hospitals."
Vijayan said 152 expatriates from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia had arrived at Kozhikode on Friday. Apart from 142 Keralites, there were eight from Karnataka and two from Tamil Nadu.
"There were 128 adults and 24 children, including 78 pregnant women. Of these, 114 were sent home and the rest were transferred to various Covid Care Centres," Vijayan said.
He said another flight from Bahrain to Kochi arrived on Friday with 181 passengers, in which there were 25 pregnant women and 28 children under the age of 10.
Two Air India Express flights carrying 362 people from Oman and Kuwait arrived at the Cochin International Airport on Saturday night.
Vijayan also said a 14-day home quarantine for all Keralites returning from other states will be made compulsory.
"Kerala's home quarantine protocol has been very effective. So top health expert B Iqbal suggested that in the present context, it would be best that those who arrive from within the country and have no symptoms be home-quarantined," said Vijayan.
According to the state-owned Norka-Roots web portal, around 2,00,000 people have registered to return and a majority are from neighbouring states and Maharashtra. Those with symptoms would be tested and, if needed, be isolated in hospitals, said Vijayan, adding the PCR test would also be conducted.
Vijayan reiterated that entry passes are mandatory to enter Kerala through check-posts bordering the neigbouring states and those without it would be sent back.
"The pass is mandatory. Based on logistics and for crowd control, there is a limit on the number of people who can cross the border every day and passes are being issued according to that," he said, adding there were some people who had reached the borders without the necessary documents and it was not acceptable.
Till now, 54,262 passes have been issued and 21,812 Keralites from other states have reached home through five border check-posts.
Vijayan also said special non-stop trains would be run from Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai to the state to bring back stranded residents. "We hope that the first train will be from Delhi to bring back stranded students there. The date will be announced soon," he said.
Vijayan said health professionals were in regular touch with those in quarantines/isolation centres.
"All those in isolation have an app with them and can get in touch with health professionals through video call. If required, medicines will be supplied at the doorstep and person be shifted to the hospital," he said.
(With inputs from agencies)