Locals in Kerala’s Poonthura Attack and Spit at Health Workers Collecting Swab Samples for Covid-19

Ateam of health workers, including a doctor, who had gone to collect swab samples from the local people at the nearby fishing hamlet of Poonthura, where several COVID-19 positive cases have been reported, were allegedly threatened by some locals on Friday.

The team had gone in a car and were forced by the agitating local people to lower the car window and they allegedly spat on those inside the vehicle, sources from the Indian Medical Association(IMA) said.

All the four health workers have been asked to go into quarantine, IMA sources told PTI.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Health minister K K Shailaja, have condemned the attack on the health workers.

Blaming the opposition parties, Vijayan said “Our health workers are in the battlefield consciously knowing that they can get affected anytime and are fighting the spread of the pandemic.

They were prevented from entering the place. Some people are making the locals do the same.We can see the hands of the Opposition parties behind this,” he told reporters.

Describing the incident as “most unfortunate”, Shailaja said the health workers are ignoring the threat to their own lives and working to help the people.

The IMA has expressed its “strong protest” against this misbehaviour towards the health workers.

“At a time when health workers are risking their lives to help others to tide over the COVID-19 situation, it is unfortunate suchanincident has occurred,” the association said.

Hundreds of men and women had come out of their homes at Poonthura this morning protesting that they were facing isolation from various quarters due to media reports on a rising number of positive cases from the area.

The protesters, many of whom refused to wear masks, alleged that there had been instances when doctors of certain hospitals had refused to treat them and they were asked to stay away.

It was at this time that the car carrying the health workers reached the area to collect the swab samples.

Poonthura has witnessed super spread of the virus as a fisherman is said to have infected many others in the fishing village.

Vijayan blamed a Youth Congress worker for the incident saying he had campaigned through WhatsApp to bring out people on to the streets to protest by spreading fake news.

In the containment zone at Poonthura, at least 31,985 people are living and the health measures of the state government were “sabotaged” by some people spreading fake news.

“Unfortunately, UDF leaders are in the forefront of this.A youth congress leader campaigned through WhatsApp, against the antigen tests saying the test was useless and would spread the virus. He also claimed that the test was just to create fear among the people and due to enmity towards Poonthura natives,” Vijayan said.

Stern action will be taken against those who spread such fake messages and cause a rift among the people and force them to take to the streets,he said.

Thiruvananthapuram recorded 129 cases,the highest number for the second consecutive day on Friday out of which 122 people have been infected through contact and a majority of them are from Poonthura.

Commandos and 500 police personnel have been deputed in Poonthura to strictly enforce the lockdown there.

As reports emerged that locals had protested at Poonthura, Health minister Shailaja appealed to the people to cooperate with the state administration to prevent the spread of the infection.

“People’s cooperation is needed.The whole world knows about this pandemic.The virus is spreading very fast and death cases are increasing across the world.

Why are people not seeing this and understanding the gravity of the situation? Kerala has lesser number of cases compared to other states, due to the effective
preventive mechanism adopted since the last six months.

If someone is trying to sabotage all the measures taken by the health department, we will lose control of the situation,” she said.

The minister also criticised the protests being launched during the pandemic and wanted to know why all the leaders, who are aware of the crisis, were silent.

“Protests can be held, but following the COVID-19 health protocol,” she said. Pointing out that there are over 5,500 aged persons in just three wards of Poonthura area and at least 2,250 children below 5 years,she said there was just one way to contain the spread there and that is declaring lockdown, and restricting travel.