How Pathanamthitta sets an exmaple to control COVID-19

How Pathanamthitta district setting a model in containing COVID-19 spread despite the high risks

Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta

Even as the Pathanamthitta district in Kerala was under the grip of a coronavirus scare as a three-member COVID-19 infected family roamed around for almost a week, now the district has become a model to other districts in containing the spread.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan directed all districts to adopt the Pathanamthitta model, the highlights of which were swift isolation of all those having primary and secondary contacts with the infected, many worship places being closed voluntarily and participation of people at gatherings restricted to less than ten.

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While the district was expecting that the COVID-19 cases in the district could even shoot up to 100, so far only nine positive cases were reported in the district.  However, the district is yet to heave a sigh of relief as 3,730 persons in the district were still under observation.

Raju Abraham, an MLA from the district, said that as soon as five persons in the district were tested COVID-19 positive on March 8 and the health authorities alerted about the chances of a massive spread, the people's representatives and district collector P B Nooh urged all religious heads in the districts to ensure minimum gatherings.

"About 90 percent religious places were willing to stop the prayers. Many churches also called off Sunday masses. Now ward level committees with representatives from police are being formed to ensure that no one violated home quarantine," said Abraham.

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Pathanamthitta district medical officer Dr Sheeja A L said that the most crucial work was to trace a maximum number of persons who had primary and secondary contacts with the infected persons within 24 hours after the first five positive cases were reported on March 8. The major hurdle was that the infected persons, mainly the three-member family, were only revealing 25 percent of their travel history. Hence about a dozen team of health workers were deputed for fieldwork to trace those who came in contact with the infected.

Flow chart of the travel history of the infected were also published so as to help people identify whether they came in contact with the infected. This model was also replicated by other districts. 

In view of advisories issued by the government, the number of pilgrims to the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple, which is also situated in the district, was very thin during the recent monthly pooja.