Onam fallout: Kerala logs 31,455 new Covid-19 cases, 215 deaths
Kerala is witnessing an alarming rise in Covid-19 cases after the festival of Onam. On Wednesday, the state reported 31,455 new cases with a test positivity rate (TPR) of 19.03 per cent, the highest caseload and TPR in three months, the state health ministry indicated.
With ramped-up testing, Covid-19 cases are shooting up exponentially and the worried health ministry has said it will tighten restrictions and increase vaccination to tide over the difficult situation. In vaccination the state is ahead-- 56.28 per cent of the population have got at least one dose of vaccine while it is 43 per cent in Tamil Nadu and 54 per cent in Karnataka, statistics show.
What is disturbing is that when cases have shrunk considerably in the rest of India, Kerala shows no signs of relenting. Its death toll is also on the rise. It reported 215 deaths on Wednesday taking total fatalities to 19,972. Many experts had warned a big surge after the Onam festivities and latest statistics prove their concerns were justified. Norms were eased and markets were jam-packed ahead of the festival-- last year also there was a surge after Onam. The intensity of the surge can be gauged when compared with the national situation. On Wednesday the country reported 37,593 new cases and with TPR below 2%.
Many hospitals have started feeling the pinch of the high caseload. Leading government hospitals said they have only 10 per cent beds left but there is no shortage of oxygen or essential medicine. The ICU occupancy (both private and public) is stable now with 2,080 patients in ICU and 780 are on ventilators. Doctors said there is a 10 per cent hike in hospitalisation in the last two days. Out of 14 districts, four reported more than 3,000 fresh infections.
During the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the state was praised for its effective handling of the situation but the second wave dragged and it reported more than 65 per cent of the total cases of the country. Experts blame low testing, low sero prevalence and over confidence for the sorry state. As cases surge experts and medical bodies have asked the state government to conduct more genetic studies and sero-prevalence surveys to confirm the presence and depth of various strains in the state.
“We expected a hike after Onam. A special drive is on to increase testing and vaccination. Since sero prevalence is very low in Kerala we have to find the infected and quarantine them at the earliest. We will do everything possible to contain the surge,” said state health minister Veena George.
It seems the health ministry appears to be resigned to the fate that a major surge is inevitable after Onam and is now bracing to see how the graph will rise. Experts have asked the state to shed its soft corner for cheap antigen tests and do more RT-PCR tests.
On Monday when Tamil Nadu had 1,52,000 RT-PCR tests, Karnataka had 91,982 and Kerala’s share was 86,650. “The surge is on expected lines. The government will have to increase tests and vaccinate maximum people. It is time to act,” said Dr N M Arun, an internal medicine expert who has been tracking the case trajectory of the state.
The fourth round of the sero survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research in July showed antibody prevalence was 67. 7% nationally but it was only 42.7 % in Kerala, meaning a huge chunk of its population is still susceptible to the virus.