A partial relaxation of lockdown rules since May 16 has given way to unrestricted movement and crowded streets once again with people starting to go to offices and other places apart from venturing out to meet family and friends.

As more people move out of their homes, return or plan to return to their homes from other States by rail or air, a spike in COVID-19 cases is inevitable.

Epidemiologists as well as Health department officials have urged people to follow precautions to avoid contracting or spreading the infectious disease. While the elderly and the children have been asked to stay indoors, youngsters have been advised to check their movement to prevent spreading the virus to the vulnerable age groups.

Stating that there has been an increase in the COVID-19 positive cases in the past few days, Director of Public Health G. Srinivasa Rao issued guidelines for strict compliance. He said that people with morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiac illness, chronic kidney diseases, chronic pulmonary disease and other chronic illnesses should stay indoors and avoid any form of travel.

Professor and head of Lifecourse Epidemiology at Indian Institute of Public Health, Giridhara R. Babu suggests postponing any large gatherings for at least the next three months. “While the young may not be affected adversely, they can become vectors for the elderly and other vulnerable sections of the population. One has to be responsible. Our adventure to socialise can inadvertently kill others,” he says.

Dr Srinivasa Rao also suggests that people aged above 60 years and children below 10 years are vulnerable and that they should avoid going outdoors. He advises people to report to the nearest government healthcare facility and seek services without delay if they have flu or influenza symptoms such as cough, sore throat, running nose, fever, difficulty in breathing, body pain and headache.

Suggesting syndromic surveillance — surveillance of a group of symptoms of a disease —and testing to be strengthened at every level, Mr. Giridhara Babu said that loss of smell, loss of taste, headache, chills and myalgia (muscle pain) should also be considered as symptoms of COVID-19.

“Research so far shows that loss of smell or loss of taste are the first symptoms of COVID-19,” he said.

District Medical and Health Offices and others working at various levels in government health network were directed to monitor Influenza-like Illness (ILI), Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) and fever cases, including patients.

Officials from the Health department said that Accredited Social Health Activists and Auxiliary Nursing Midwives have been monitoring the illnesses.

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