Sero survey, new testing strategy: How Kerala is battling rising Covid-19 cases
Out of the 30,941 fresh cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and 350 deaths across the country on Tuesday, Kerala has contributed most of the infections and fatalities. Kerala reported 19,622 Covid-19 cases and 132 deaths on Monday, which have pushed the southern state's caseload to 40,27,030 and the toll to 20,673. The state logged 29,836 Covid-19 infections and 75 related deaths on Sunday. A day before, there were 31,265 cases and 153 deaths in Kerala.
Thrissur in Kerala reported the highest number of Covid-19 cases at 3177, followed by Ernakulam with 2315 and Kozhikode 1916. "Out of those found infected today, 62 reached the state from outside while 18,436 contracted the disease through their contact. The source of infection of 1,061 is yet to be traced and 63 health workers are also among the infected," Kerala health minister Veena George said in a release on Monday.
Kerala to start new sero study
Amid surging Covid-19 cases, the Kerala government clamped night curfew and has also decided to conduct a seroprevalence study to determine the immunity of people against the virus and assess the risk of the spread of the pandemic. Kerala health minister George said the permission to conduct Covid-19 seroprevalence study in the state has been granted. "The seroprevalence study is being conducted to find out how many people who have been vaccinated or have contracted the Covid-19 have been able to achieve the immunity against the virus. It will also be possible to find out how many more people are at risk of contracting the disease," she said.
George said the seroprevalence study would help in strengthening the Covid preventive measures the state is taking. "The last ICMR seroprevalence study conducted found that in Kerala, 42.07 per cent of people had acquired immunity against Covid-19. Kerala had the lowest number of infected people in the state. Since then, the state has made great strides in vaccination. That is why the seroprevalence study conducted by the state is very important," she added.
In Kerala, George said the survey would cover people over the age of 18, pregnant women, children between the ages of 5-17, tribals above 18 and those living in coastal areas and slum dwellers. A seroprevalence survey uses antibody tests to estimate the percentage of people in a population who have antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.
Kerala's revised Covid-19 testing strategy
George has also announced a revised Covid-19 testing strategy after 71 per cent out of Kerala's total population was eligible to be vaccinated taking at least the first dose of the vaccine. "The guidelines have also been issued based on the vaccination status in the districts. More people will be screened to know the exact extent of the spread of the disease in the community. The Covid spread will be assessed in all the districts based on sentinel and random samples. All the districts would take random samples to find out any new clusters of Covid outbreaks," she said.
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The minister said that in districts where the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine has been given above 80 per cent, RTPCR is recommended for individuals with any symptoms like mild sore throat, cough, and diarrhoea. "Antigen testing will be conducted at this location as part of Sentinel Surveillance. This test is performed on people with high social contact such as shops, malls, offices, institutions, and transit sites," she added. "Antigen will also be sufficient for a random test to assess the disease status in the district. The old system will continue in local government areas where the first dose of the vaccine is given below 80 per cent."
The collected samples should be sent to the labs without delay and the positive and negative results should be uploaded as soon as possible, she said. "Strict action will be taken against the labs which do against this. District health department officers will check the quality of Antigen and RTPCR test kits," she added.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said the government will also call a meeting of experts on September 1 to assess the current situation and formulate a strategy on the way ahead.
(With agency inputs)