Pathanamthitta braces for likely spike once NRKs return from US, Europe

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Express News Service

KOCHI:  It took some systematic and meticulous steps for Pathanamthitta to break free from the grip of Covid-19 in March when the first case was reported in the district. Over the days, the district valiantly fought the battle, emerging Covid-free. But the fight is not over yet. For the district, with the largest Malayali diaspora in Europe and the US, faces the threat of a second wave when the huge expat population flies down.

Till the time a three-member family residing at Ranni in Pathanamthitta, who had returned from Italy on February 29, tested positive in early March, Covid-19 was only a distant echo for Malayalis living in their home state. After reality struck,  the state government, the district administration and the health department worked in tandem to snuff out the threat posed by the pandemic. By April second week, the district reported a clean slate, with not even a single Covid case recorded. The district remained a green zone till May 12 when the first positive case was reported after a gap of nearly 30 days.  

Currently, there are four Covid positive cases, all of them imported ones from the Gulf. Several Malayalis stranded in other States had begun to arrive in the district from May 03. Of the total 2,239 people under observation in Pathanamthitta as on May 17, 205 people had flown in from West Asia after May 7. The remaining 2,023  came from the other states after the inter-state borders were opened on May 5. 

But the real test will come when the expats from the American mainland and Europe arrive here.  Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday said 28 more flights carrying homebound Malayali expatriates will reach the state from various countries till June 2. One flight each will come from the US, UK, Australia, Russia, France, Italy, Ireland, Ukraine, Armenia, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. 

 “We are aware that once the Malayalis from the US, Italy, France and the UK start to arrive in June, it will be a daunting challenge. Nearly 6,000 Malayalis in these countries, which are global Covid red spots have expressed their desire to return home. We expect that at least half of them –nearly 3,000 people — to come back in the coming months. It is a huge challenge, but we are pretty confident of continuing the good work,” Minister K Raju, who is coordinating Covid-19 measures in the district, told TNIE.

“We will ensure that the people who arrive from overseas are quarantined and will go through the same contact tracing, GPS tracking and route movement system to make sure there is no community spread,” he said. With more expats set to return to the district in the coming days, the minister on Monday held a meeting with the officials concerned through videoconfering to discuss the necessary steps to be taken.

Irudaya Rajan S of the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) said the number of cases in Pathanamthitta as well as Kerala is likely to see a surge. “If the Centre decides to bring back more Malayalis from the US and Europe, a spike in cases in Pathanamthitta and Kottayam is a real possibility.  However, we have prevented community spread during the first wave. Hence we shall overcome the second wave also, if any,” he said.

Pathanamthitta Covid-19 cases
(As on May 18, 2020)

Confirmed: 21  |  Active: 4  |  Recovered: 17

People under observation
Hospital: 10   |   Home: 2,679

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