08 Feb 2021: Kerala: Two schools become coronavirus hotspots, 187 students infected
In a concerning development, two schools in Malappuram, Kerala, have turned into coronavirus hotspots, with a staggering number of 187 students testing positive. 89 staff members also contracted the fatal disease.
The schools in question are the Maranchery Government Higher Secondary School and the Vannery Higher Secondary School in Perumbadappu Panchayat where RT-PCR tests were conducted recently.
Here are more details.
What happened: Month after schools reopened, infections surged
The massive contact tracing exercise was launched after a Class X student tested positive in the Maranchery school on February 1.
Schools in the Southern state partially reopened from January for Class X and XII students, after being shut since March last year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
After the first infection was reported, three teachers in the school showed symptoms.
Fact: Samples of nearly 600 students were taken, 148 tested positive
"Then, the health department collected samples from 582 students and 50 staff including teachers at the school last Friday. Of them, 148 students and 50 staff members tested positive," the health department said in a statement.
Series of events: Subsequently, samples from second school were collected, dozens tested positive
Later, the department collected samples from the nearby Vannery school.
"Of the samples collected from 49 students at Vannery school, 39 tested positive and 39 employees were also found to be infected," the statement added.
District Medical Officer K Sakeena assured that those who may have come in contact with the infected staff members and students will be subjected to COVID-19 tests soon.
Order: Infected students sent to quarantine, schools ordered to remain vigilant
The district medical authorities directed all schools to strictly adhere to coronavirus-linked protocol. All infected students were sent to quarantine.
It was ordered that school premises, furniture, stationery, etc. should be thoroughly sanitized. The water tanks, wells, and other water sources have to be cleaned with bleaching powder.
Physical distancing should be respected and schools must conduct health check-ups whenever needed.
Statement: Official said only a few students attended classes
The schools, in their defense, said they adhered to precautions and that only a limited number of students attended classes.
"After a student tested positive for the disease, the health department took immediate measures to test the other students," an official told TNIE.
The health department commented that this development must be seen as a warning and people shouldn't lose sight of coronavirus-appropriate behavior.
Fact: 'Responsibility of people to protect themselves from virus'
"It is the responsibility of the people, including students, to protect themselves from the virus through appropriate behavior — wearing face masks and keeping physical distancing. The people, especially students, should be more careful to avoid the infection," a health department official said.
Kerala: Kerala hit a positivity rate of over 9% yesterday
Tellingly, Kerala's coronavirus story, lauded globally earlier, hit the worst patch recently, with an alarmingly high positivity rate.
On Sunday, 65,517 tests were conducted and 6,075 fresh infections surfaced (9.2% positivity rate). The number of total infections stands at 9,68,438 and deaths at 3,867.
The situation in Kerala, and seven other states/UTs, had been labeled as "worrying" by Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan last week.