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Kerala tops India’s daily Covid-19 cases. What went wrong?

India Today logo India Today 26-01-2021 Jeemon Jacob
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logo, company name © Provided by India Today The number of Covid-19 cases in Kerala seems to be shooting up steadily. Despite being the state credited with the best public healthcare system, Kerala is heading for a critical stage in its Covid battle. There are currently 72,891 Covid positive patients undergoing treatment in the state. The state blames the lax safety protocols during the Christmas and New Year celebrations for the spike in cases. The local body elections in December also led to community surveillance waning in the state. Political campaigns and house visits during the poll witnessed large-scale violations of Covid protocol.

On January 20, the Union health ministry issued a warning to the state government that things were getting out of hand and directed it to intensify surveillance. But health officials say there's been no laxity by the government. "We increased the number of tests per day after the local body polls. Now around 60,000 plus tests are conducted daily, including for the high-risk category," a senior health official pointed out.

Ernakulam district tops the Covid chart with 10,894 cases, followed by Kozhikode (7,794 cases), Kottayam(6,757) and Pathanamthitta (6,376) on January 26.

The number of new cases has been shooting up since the first week of January with positivity rates crossing 9%. As of January 25, around 9,258,401 Covid tests have been conducted in the state.

The health department had warned the government about the crisis situation emerging after the local self-government bodies poll held in December. The situation is complicated as assembly elections are just three months away.

V.D. Satheesan, vice-president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee and a senior legislator, says the state government must prepare a special action plan for critical districts and tighter surveillance. "It looks like our Covid shield has vanished and we are heading for a crisis situation," he warns.

Kerala's with 880,000 cases so far, has the fourth highest count so far in the country. The overall positivity rate is at 12.48% and recovery rate 91.54%.

The death rate, at 0.41% is much lower than the national average of 1.5%. A total of 3,607 persons have died over the past year.

Health minister K.K. Shailaja has reviewed the situation and warned the public against taking a casual approach towards the pandemic. "The number of Covid cases is on the rise for the last two weeks. Every day, around 6,000 plus infections have been reported since January 19. It's time we took all precautions against the Covid-19 infection to break the chain. Or we may have to pay a high price for our casual approach," Shailaja warns.

The state government is worried about the crisis situation in six districts--Ernakulam, Kozhikode, Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Kollam and Thrissur—all with 5,000-plus patients and showing a steady increase in infections.

Health experts point out that the state's high density of population (860 people per sq. km) is also to blame. Ernakulam has been on top of the Covid chart for the past four months, with Kozhikode again No. 2 for the past three months. Meanwhile, adjoining districts Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Idukki have developed large clusters of Covid patients resulting in infection levels shooting up.

And now with bars and cinema theatres also open (with 50% entry capacity), contact tracing for source of infection also cannot be carried out.

Kerala reported its India's first Covid-19 case on January 30, 2020, in Thrissur when a medical student returning from Wuhan tested positive. For almost a year now, the public has been under surveillance and following Covid protocols. Social distancing and wearing masks in public places started much earlier here, but now people have become much more lax.

"We are registering 3,000 plus cases daily against persons for not wearing masks. But what can you do if people are in a careless mood?" asks a senior police official.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan too has made several appeals to the public to be cautious. But very few seem to be taking heed. Aslo, with the arrival of the Covid vaccine, people feel there is no reason to be afraid now. The state is paying for their carelessness and casual approach.

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