Local bodies in Ernakulam with high test positivity rate facing multiple challenges

Reluctance to undergo COVID-19 testing a problem in some Category D panchayats

The local bodies figuring in Category D based on the average weekly test positivity rate (TPR) of above 15% are facing multiple challenges in their efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Some panchayats had pointed out a reluctance on the part of people to undergo testing. Chellanam, which figured top in Category D with a TPR of 26.33%, is facing such a scenario, according to the panchayat authorities. “Many were hesitant to undergo testing fearing that their livelihood would be hit badly. Being a coastal region, several families depend on daily wages and the worsening financial crisis seems to be making them think twice before undergoing the test,” said K.D. Prasad, panchayat president.

“We have ramped up the tests in all wards. Nearly 26 of the 41 persons who took the test in Wards 15 and 16 tested positive on Friday. They claimed lack of any symptoms as a reason for not turning up at the testing centres,” he said.

Kadungallor panchayat president Suresh Muttathil said that only those who had symptoms associated with the infection were turning up for testing. “We have now stepped up ward-level sensitisation on the need to come forward and undergo the tests to check the spread of the disease. Any drop in vigil will result in reduced number of persons turning up for testing,” he said. Kadunagallor had recorded an average weekly TPR of 18.04%.

A.K. Nishad, chairman of the health standing committee in Kalamassery municipality, said the industrial regions in the civic body were showing an increase in the number of positive cases compared to the residential areas. “We have now increased testing focusing on migrant workers in South Kalamassery industrial region and the HMT region,” he said. The municipality had to initiate stringent measures after it recorded an average weekly TPR of 16.88%.

Mr. Prasad said directives had been given to ensure that workers in various sectors, including those under the employment guarantee scheme, underwent testing before proceeding with their daily work. “Otherwise, the situation will turn worse,” he said. Mr. Muttathil said the number of testing camps had been increased in Kadungallor panchayat. “We had tested 140 to 200 persons over the last two days,” he said.

Mr. Nishad said the vaccination drive at the primary health centre under the municipality had slowed down after the council had set up a centre opposite the Government Medical College Hospital, Kalamassery, after the second wave began. The primary health centre was also facing staff shortage. “With cases going up, we have now resumed the vaccination drive at the primary health centre,” he said.

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