Why alarm bells started ringing after a Kerala politician got Covid-19

The Idukki district Congress secretary AP Usman posted an unusual apology on Facebook on Friday. Tested positive for the Sars-CoV 2 virus two days ago, he made frantic calls asking all those he came in contact with since the first week of March to go into quarantine immediately.

What was perplexing was that Usman had no recent foreign travel history, and none of his relatives or close associates had returned from another country in the past several weeks. A social worker by profession, he had participated in several events, including a statewide yatra of the party’s trade union wing. He had also visited the state assembly, stayed at the MLA quarters, and attended prayers in many mosques. Hundreds of people, including two legislators and an MP, went under self-quarantine after his post went viral.

Till today, the source of his infection is unclear. Which prompts the question, is this a case of community transmission?

“At that time, in early March, there were not many restrictions. I have no idea how I got the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). Being a politician, I used to travel a lot. I had a word with the Idukki district collector H Dineshan and he agreed that I should divulge my identity in order to prevent the infection from spreading,” said Usman.

He said that when his symptoms — sore throat and mild flu — first appeared, he dismissed them as nothing significant. He got worried once the shivering began.

“That I tested positive was a shock to my friends and family. More than the disease, I was worried that as a carrier I would have transmitted the virus to many. All the more, I was pained at chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s statement that I spread it from one tip of the state to the other,” said Usman.

State opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala also criticised the CM for the statement, saying that given the circumstances, “it can happen to anyone”.

“Our life has totally changed. All family members are literally holed up. What is a relief is that local people who know us for many years do not show any aversion or stigma towards us. We have heard bitter stories about this (in other cases). We will come out of this,” said one of Usman’s family member who asked not to be named.

Idukki district administration said it was cumbersome to prepare the flowchart to track the people Usman came in touch with. “We have prepared a list of his major contacts we feel it is not complete,” said district collector H Dineshan, adding his contacts may run into thousands.

He said Usman’s main contacts have been quarantined, and more than 500 people are under observation.

But it’s still not clear who Usman got the virus from.

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