Kerala Health Minister Veena George refutes allegations of inaction amid rising COVID-19 cases

George said that the Health Department had issued proper precautionary measures and carried out preparatory work.


Published Dec 18, 2023 | 7:35 PMUpdatedDec 18, 2023 | 7:35 PM

Inspection on eateries

Hours after the Leader of the Opposition in the assembly, V D Satheesan, expressed concern over the rising cases of COVID-19 in Kerala, state Health Minister Veena George on Monday alleged that some people were trying to create unnecessary panic among the public on the matter.

“This is absolutely wrong,” she said in response to Satheesan’s allegation that the state government was not taking any steps to contain the spread of the virus in the southern state.

George said that after noticing a slight increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in November, the Health Department had issued proper precautionary measures and carried out preparatory work. She said that the ministerial meeting had decided to send the samples for whole genome sequencing at that time.

Related: Experts seek measures against likely spike of new variant of Covid-19

‘Only one JN.1 case’

“Samples have been sent for whole genomic testing since November. JN.1 was detected in only one sample, from a 79-year-old person from Karakulam, Thiruvananthapuram. That patient was cured after treatment at home,” she said in a statement in Thiruvananthapuram.

She added that Singapore had detected JN.1 in 15 people who travelled from India to the country in the past months.

“It means that this Covid-19 variant is also present in other states of India,” she said.

The minister highlighted the peculiarity of the Covid-19 case in Kerala, noting that it was found through testing conducted in the state.

“It was discovered due to the excellence of the systems in Kerala and due to vigilance,” she claimed.

George said that the health department had undertaken proper preparatory work to deal with the situation.

“From the beginning, we have been looking at whether the use of ICU beds and ventilators is on the rise. It is still being monitored,” she said.

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‘Measures have been taken’

Describing the steps taken by the Health Department to deal with the COVID-19 cases, the minister said that measures have been taken to ensure the availability of isolation wards, rooms, oxygen beds, ICU beds, and ventilators in hospitals.

From 13 to 16 December, an online mock drill was conducted involving 1,192 government and private hospitals to ensure their preparedness, she said.

The minister disclosed that 1,957 oxygen beds, 2,454 ICU beds, and 937 ventilator ICU beds have been arranged.

George clarified that the deceased individuals also had other serious illnesses.

“No one has died from Covid-19, and those who succumbed were admitted to the hospitals with other serious illnesses,” she claimed.

She said that the spread of the disease in Kerala should not be misinterpreted as affecting people’s lives.

Elderly and seriously ill people should take precautions to avoid getting Covid-19, she said.

Related: VD Satheesan accuses Kerala government of not taking any steps

Opposition slams govt

Earlier in the day, Satheesan told reporters in Malappuram that even though 89 percent of the Covid-19 cases in the country are in the state, the Kerala government has not provided clear information about the action taken.

“The spread of Covid-19 is intensifying in the state. However, the government has not yet issued any clear statements on this,” the Congress leader alleged.

He further said that at the national level, the Ministry of Health reports that out of more than 1,800 cases in the country, over 1,600 cases have been reported in Kerala.

“There were four deaths….111 new cases were reported yesterday (Sunday) alone,” he said, quoting national level reports.

Satheesan alleged that the state government is inactive, possibly waiting for the conclusion of the state government’s outreach programme, Nava Kerala Sadas.

“The government should take immediate action before people start panicking about the spread of the virus,” he said.

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