Virus detection in Edappal doctors triggers panic

Over 20,000, including infants and the aged, feared to have contacted doctors

Panic has gripped several areas in Ponnani taluk following the detection of COVID-19 infection in two popular doctors at Edappal.

More than 20,000 people are feared to have had direct and indirect contact with the doctors in the last three weeks.

Panic calls from people living in Tavanur, Kalady, Edappal, Vattamkulam, Ponnani and Kumaranallur areas flooded the Health Department offices in the district on Monday. Both the doctors who tested positive during sentinel surveillance held in the third week of this month had roaring practice at two private hospitals at Edappal.

One was a paediatrician in his 40s and the other a physician in his 50s. Both had examined hundreds of patients belonging to the most vulnerable groups—infants and the aged.

Anxiety gripped not only those who consulted these doctors but also those who visited the two Edappal hospitals and their private clinics. More than half of the employees at the two Edappal hospitals have gone into quarantine.

One senior Health official from Edappal said his mobile phone got its battery drained from dozens of panic calls he took on Sunday and Monday.

Apart from the two doctors, two bank employees and three nurses too were found to be positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the sentinel surveillance.

The government, meanwhile, responded pro-actively to the situation by deciding to set up testing facility at private hospitals in the district. Addressing a special meeting, Minister for Higher Education K.T. Jaleel said on Monday that hospitals with good laboratory facilities would be identified soon.

About 1,500 people, including Asha workers, police personnel, health volunteers, politicians and traders, would be tested soon. Mr. Jaleel said all employees of the two private hospitals at Edappal would be subjected to COVID-19 tests. Random tests on health workers across the district, including doctors, would follow. The Minister said that efforts were on to increase the testing capacity in the district.

Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan, who represents Ponnani in the Assembly, warned people to exercise extreme vigil to prevent community spread and sought the support of all sections of the community. He said the facilities at the mother and child hospital at Ponnani would be augmented.

Meanwhile, triple lockdown was imposed in all panchayats in Ponnani taluk. Essential services have been exempted.

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