Ernakulam district could probably be at the edge of an early phase of community spread of COVID-19, A. Fathahudeen, nodal officer for COVID-19 care in Ernakulam and Vice Principal of the Government Medical College, has said. The cluster of cases points to the fact that community spread might not be a myth, he said.
“Community spread might not be surprising because of the contagious behaviour of the virus. It is humanly impossible for us to completely prevent it,” said Dr. Fathahudeen. On Saturday, the district had recorded six cases with no travel history and no obvious source of infection.
“But we are probably only on the edge of an early phase, where we have enhanced containment measures in place such as contact tracing, testing and isolation,” he said.
If this stage was allowed to advance, none of the containment measures would work, he said. Testing all cases would then become nearly impossible, and quarantine and tracing the index case would become difficult. “So, it is high time that we went in for a triple lockdown,” he said.
In this early stage, as in the situation on Saturday in the district, it might be possible to trace only about 50% of the contacts of the core case, he said. “We can never completely trace the source in the case of a community spread.”
“Early indicators of a large-scale spread are a large number of cases in clusters from multiple places, and a considerable number of patients admitted to hospitals in the late phase of the disease with advanced pneumonia and critical illnesses. A third indicator would be a large admission rate in all hospitals. None of this is happening yet, which means we are still at the edge of an early phase of community spread,” he said.
“But it might not take much time for the phase to move into an advanced phase. It can happen any time unless we are very strict with early contact tracing, quarantine, testing and isolation,” he said.