People in Kerala need to be more vigilant in the next four weeks in view of the threat of an impending third wave of COVID-19 and opening of institutions and offices from August 24 after the Onam holidays, Health Minister Veena George said here on Monday. The minister said an emergency meeting of the health department has been convened on Tuesday morning to assess the situation in Kerala after the Onam celebrations when restrictions on running of shops and businesses were reduced to protect both the lives and livelihoods of merchants.
“Shops could not have been kept shut for all time as the government has to protect both lives and livelihoods, ” she said.
However, people were instructed to strictly adhere to the COVID-19 protocols and while a lot of them abided by it, there were instances of overcrowding in many places.
The minister, in the release, further said that many areas in the state were facing the threat of the highly contagious Delta variant. “There is also the threat of a third wave. Therefore, when opening institutions and offices after Onam, everyone should be extremely careful,” she said.
She also said that while the government was trying to ensure everyone was vaccinated and safe, no one should behave less cautiously merely because they have been vaccinated.
“Recent studies indicate that people who have been vaccinated may become more susceptible to the Delta variant if they do not take precautions. Therefore, everyone should pay attention,” the minister said.
She further said that in anticipation of the third wave the health department has already made preparations for setting up oxygen beds and ICUs in hospitals starting from the Taluk level and the number of ventilators have also been increased.
Intensive Care Units in District General Hospitals will be linked online with Medical Colleges and paediatric treatment systems are being augmented in view of the apprehension that children are more likely to be affected by the third wave if they have not been vaccinated, she said.
She further said that 490 oxygen-equipped paediatric beds, 158 High Dependency Unit (HDU) beds, 96 ICU, are being set up for children and added that special emphasis was being placed on ensuring the availability of oxygen.
The state has a total oxygen reserve of 870 metric tonnes, and 33 oxygen generation units — which can produce an additional 77 metric tonnes of the life saving gas — are being set up here, the minister said.
“In addition, the government has set up an oxygen generation system in private hospitals to produce 13 metric tonnes of oxygen per day.” Suggesting precautionary methods to prevent spread of the virus among children and adults, she said that if someone gets sick at home, it was imperative to follow the quarantine conditions. Elderly people and people with chronic diseases are more likely to get sick and closed areas are responsible for the spread of COVID-19 and, therefore, institutions and offices must be vigilant when they reopen, she said.
The disease can be spread if care is not taken while eating and washing hands, she further said. The minister also said that testing will be maximized and on exhibiting symptoms of cough, sore throat, fever, chills, body aches or headaches, one should get tested for COVID-19 before travelling.
She also advised people to wear a double mask or N95 mask to cover the nose and mouth properly, maintain a distance of at least two metres between individuals and wash hands frequently with soap and water or disinfect it with sanitizer.