Kerala has gone by Central norms in COVID-19 testing: Health Department

Kerala has followed  the guidelines of  the Union Health Ministry in  COVID-19 sample testing  by factoring in the state-specific circumstances,  the Department of Health and Family Welfare said today.

Even before the first case of Novel Coronavirus was reported in the state, preparations had been started.  The first set of COVID-related guidelines was issued on January 26.  After the first confirmed case was reported on January 30, three sets of guidelines, including an addendum, were issued. They pertained to testing, quarantine, hospital admission and discharging, sample testing, collection, and transportation for laboratory diagnosis.

Taking into account the specific circumstances of the state,  the sample tests were conducted based on the guidelines, the Health Department pointed out in the backdrop of criticism that Kerala has under-reported the number of testing.

As per its revised norms, the World Health Organisation has proposed the strategy of  “trace,  test, isolate and treat” to contain COVID-19.  The Union Health Ministry has also suggested the same approach. All the potential cases in the state had been brought under strict observation and tests were conducted as per the norms.

Also, the state has collected the details of patients who have been admitted to Intensive Care Units in hospitals since January with fever, lung infections, and other serious illnesses. These details have been analysed by a Medical Board consisting of experts and compared them with the statistics of previous years. The results of this meticulous exercise have been revealed during the press conference of Hon’ ble Chief Minister. 

From this thorough examination it was found that there had been no spike in number of patients with COVID-like symptoms, the Department said, referring to the allegation that the state has already community transmission of the virus.

The Augmented Tests were conducted in the state as part of the Sentinel Surveillance to ascertain if there had been community transmission of the disease.  The health department has prepared the guidelines in this regard. As part of this, 3128 samples were tested on a single day on April 26.

Apart from this,  samples  were collected and tested of  vulnerable sections like doctors, paramedics, police personnel,  health workers,  helpers  at community kitchens, anganwadi  employees, staff of local bodies, media persons ,  ration shop hands,  fruits and vegetable vendors,   truck drivers ,  loading and unloading workers, warehouse employees, guest labourers, traders at transit points and asymptomatic NRKs.

Though Indian Council of Medical Research had said that it would provide anti-body  test kits,  the state is yet to receive that. So, RT- PCR  test had to be conducted on them.

Thanks to close surveillance, prompt testing and strict adherence to the guidelines by the State Health Department, Kerala has even been able to detect infection in those who had not shown symptoms of the disease and trace and put their contacts under observation.

World over, there have been instances of health workers engaged in COVID mitigation efforts getting infected. In Kerala, 27 health workers  have suffered  infection so far,  including nurses and  public health workers  like Asha workers. All of them got the infected due  to direct contact with COVID-19 patients.

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