29 fresh cases in Kerala; Over 67,000 under observation

Thiruvananthapuram, May 18 (PTI) Kerala on Monday witnessed a big single day spike in COVID-19 cases in recent days with 29 people, all but one returnees from overseas and other states, testing positive for the pathogen, as the state stared at a probable third wave of the dreaded virus.

The LDF government decided to set up special police task force in all cities and towns to implement mandatory wearing of masks to prevent the spread of the virus.

Confirming fears of the government, which had expected a rise in cases once the expatriates started returning from the Gulf and other countries besides from other states, the active cases more than doubled to 130 from the 64 just four days ago while over 67,000 people remained under observation.

The total positive cases touched 630 in the state, which had on May 8 declared it had flattened the curve.

Of the 29 cases, as many as 21 areexpatriates, who had been brought back to the state as part of the Centre's 'Vande Bharat' mission, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters here.

Seven others had come from other states, while a health worker inKannur was infected throughcontact, he said, giving details of the new cases.

The first Air India repatriation flight had landed in the state on May 7 from Abu Dhabi and since then several flights and two ships had been operated with hundreds of people being brought back home. Besides, nearly 1,000 Keralites returned by a special train from New Delhi on Friday.

On May 8, Vijayan had said the state has flattened the COVID-19 curve with only 16 active cases then, but also cautioned the state needed to be careful to avoid another wave of the deadly virus and there cannot be room for any complacency.

The country's first COVID-19 case was reported in Kerala on January 30 when a medical student from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, tested positive in Thrissur.

The second wave of the virus had hit the state during March when a three-member family returned from Italy.

In his media briefing on Monday, the Chief Minister said police have registered cases against three non-resident Keralites, who had arrived here from Abu Dhabi and Maldives recently, for withholding information that they were infected by coronavirus.

The cases were registered under the Kerala Epidemic Act.

Despite clearly being aware that theyare positive for the infection, the three failed to inform the officials, he said, without elaborating further.

For thesecond straight day, none has been discharged from hospitals in the state.

Of the new cases, Kollam reported six cases, Thrissur four and Thiruvananthapuram, and Kannur three each.

Pathnamthitta, Alapuzha, Kottayam, Kozhikode and Kasaragod recorded two cases each while one case each was from Ernakulam, Palakkad and Malappuram districts, Vijayan said.

The total coronavirus hotspotsin the state rose to 29, including Kollam.

At least 67,789 people were under observation and 473 of them in various hospitals, inclduing127 admitted on Monday.

So far, 45,905 samples have been sent for testing of which 44,651 have returned negative, he said.

Vijayan said to ensure that people wear masks in public places, special police task force will be constituted in all cities and towns.

On Monday, a total of 1,344 cases were registered against people for not wearing masks and16 were booked for violating quarantine norms.

For lockdown violations, as many as 1,366 cases were registered, 1,496 been arrestedand 692 vehicles seized during the day, officials said. PTI UD VS VS