17/07/2020 2:47 PM IST

Kerala: New Clusters Feared In Thiruvananthapuram After KEAM Exam

Crowds of students and their parents were seen violating social distancing norms during the Kerala Engineering Architecture Medical (KEAM) examination conducted in Pattom.

KEAM exam centre in Pattom

The Kerala government is battling political backlash as it races to contain the spread of coronavirus in the state capital.

Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, Union minister V Muraleedharan and state BJP president blamed the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government for going ahead with the KEAM examination on Thursday as cases continued to rise. Tens of thousands of students had attended the exam across the state.

On Tuesday, the CM had said the state was in the third stage of virus transmission in which virus spread in some clusters. “The next phase is community spread,” he said warning people to remain vigilant.

Kerala reported a record 722 new cases on Thursday, the first time that the daily spike crossed 700, and the total infection count breached the 10,000 mark.

The death toll climbed to 37 as two more fatalities were reported on Thursday.

New clusters feared in Thiruvananthapuram

Thiruvananthapuram had gone into triple lockdown on July 6, which was extended for another week on July 10 as cases continued rise in the district.

The state has been designating containment zones and triple lockdowns in areas where there was super spread to prevent these from turning into community spread, CM Pinarayi had said.

In Thiruvananthapuram such clusters were formed in Poonthura, Manikyavilakam, Puthanpally and Pulluvila.

However, new clusters are feared to have emerged in the last two days.

Of particular concern is the Kerala Engineering Architecture Medical (KEAM) examination conducted in Pattom on Thursday, where crowds of students and their parents were seen violating social distancing norms.

Politicians have hit out at the government for going ahead with the exam despite calls to postpone it.

Dr Vijayakrishnan GS, Joint Secretary of Indian Medical Association in Kerala told The NewsMinute that the blame lay with authorities and with parents of the students.

“Thiruvananthapuram is in a highly vulnerable position. Taking this into account, what happened at the Pattom centre is shocking. Even if it’s a group of hundred, just 3-5 infected people can result in a huge cluster. People who were thronging close to them could have been infected. The blame is to be placed both on the authorities at the exam centre who were supposed to control the crowds and also the public – especially parents – who should have taken care not to throng the entrance and risk infection.”

On Thursday, Thiruvananthapuram had reported a spike in COVID-19 cases with 339 cases. Of these, 301 were through local sources and the source for 16 has not yet been traced.

Twelve heath workers, including five doctors from the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital, were among those infected. The surgery ward of the Medical College has been shut down,  Manorama said.

The Hindu reported 78 employees of the Ramachandran hypermarket had tested positive for COVID-19 in two days. Results of the 94 remaining employees are awaited. Customers of the outlet have been asked to contact district authorities while the hypermarket and its other branches in the city have been ordered to close for a week.

Kerala now has 5,372 active cases. At least 1,83,900 people are under observation, 5,432 are in various hospitals. There were 271 hotspots and 84 clusters in the state, including ten large community clusters.

Pinarayi said the state would ramp up testing facilities and set up first line treatment centres in all panchayats. 

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