One in 3 new coronavirus cases recorded in Kerala
More than one in every three new Covid-19 cases recorded in India over the last week have come from Kerala, a state that is defying the national trend of falling infections and has been the biggest outbreak centre in the country since late October.
The latest statistic -- Kerala recorded 6,815 new cases on Wednesday, and 37% of all cases reported across the country since January 13 have been in the state -- has health experts worried, even as state government points to a low case fatality rate (CFR) to contend that the pandemic is under control.
“Due to our effective intervention we delayed the peak and controlled death rate considerably. Our death rate is still lowest in the country, below 0.4% when the national average is more than 1.4%,” state health minister KK Shailaja said, adding that timely government intervention delayed the peak and saved many lives.
A low CFR means that while the pandemic may have affected a high number of people, fewer are dying of the coronavirus on account of either effective treatment or immediate isolation following detection.
Yet, the continuing high numbers -- for example, Kerala’s share in new cases across India went to as high as 45% on Tuesday -- has led experts to call for changes in the state’s Covid management strategy. They have called for the government to increase testing, and to increase the number of RT-PCR tests, which have a lower rate of false negatives than antigen tests.The test positivity rate in the state stood at 11.8% on Wednesday as against 1.8% across India.
“The situation is really serious. Test rate of the state is still poor and emphasis is on antigen tests. At least 40% of tests are still antigen. The government will have to rope in more experts and engage private players in a big way before it is too late,” said public health expert Dr SS Lal.
Since India’s Covid-19 peak in its first and only wave, the national case trajectory has dropped 85% — from 93,617 on September 16 to 14,376 on January 19. In Kerala, by contrast, the case trajectory has dropped only 34% —from 8,728 cases (seven-day average) on October 13 to 5,374 cases a day in the past week.
The health minister attributed the high caseload to the local body elections held in December, and the festive season which began in September and continued till New Year’s eve. She asked people not to lower their guard. “We have noticed some people behave as if a remedy is around (in terms of the vaccine) and refuse to take precautions. Many fail to turn up for tests and vaccinations as well. It is not good,” she said.
The state has also seen a series of unlocks, with some restrictions, in the past few months. Last month, local body elections were held, and hotels and bars were opened. On January 1, schools were opened for Class 10 and 12 students, and on January 13, cinema halls were opened at half capacity. Spas and ayurvedic resorts have also opened in the state owing to a revenue loss of an estimated ₹15,000 crore to the exchequer, the state tourism minister said earlier this month.
(With inputs from Jamie Mullick)
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