Shailaja warns of a second lockdown if 'irresponsible behaviour' continues

Health minister K K Shailaja on Sunday said a second COVID-19 wave was sweeping through the world and warned that if Kerala continued its relaxed irresponsible ways the state might be forced to impose extreme preventive measures, even a second lockdown.

Like Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Shailaja, too, blamed the opposition parties and their street agitations for the spike in COVID-19 cases in Kerala.

"At one stage, Kerala's COVID-19 prevention was far advanced. However, certain irresponsible behaviour that should not have happened hampered prevention. As protests grew, so did the COVID-19 numbers. Many countries are mulling the re-imposition of lockdown. We are doing our best to prevent such an eventuality. But if people are not willing to cooperate the government will be left with no other option," the health minister said during a television address on Sunday.

She said the number of deaths in Kerala (659) was relatively low, a death rate of 0.39 percent. The deaths in neighbouring Tamil Nadu is nearing 10,000, she said. "Yet we cannot be complacent," the minister said.

She said there were certain fears unique to Kerala. "One is the number of elderly in the popultion. Kerala is one of the few places in the world with a predominantly large elderly population," Shailaja said.

Then, there was the density factor. "Kerala has the highest density of population in the country," she said. Kerala is also a state known for the prevalence of lifestyle diseases like diabetes, asthma and hypertension, all of which the virus could aggravate.

The minister said that those above 60 accounted for 72 percent of COVID deaths in Kerala. But this does not mean that the younger lot could wander freely. "The most number of COVID-19 patients in Kerala are in the 20-40 age group. They might be asymptomatic and healthy but the virus spreads through them, which makes them highly dangerous. These young people could infect the elderly in their homes. This is why it is extremely important that they shed their callous and irresponsible ways," Shailaja said.

She also sought to disprove the notion that recovery rate is low in Kerala. "Even now we discharge a patient only if at least one test shows negative unlike in some other places where discharge is done after four or five days when the symptoms subside," the health minister said.

She said in Kerala a patient would be kept in hospitals long after symptoms had waned and till a negative result is produced. For some, it will tke 10 days to get a negative result. For others 15 and in yet others it could take more. All this while they are kept in hospitals, and constantly monitored," Shailaja said.

She said that even after following such a rigorous discharge policy, as many as 1.15 lakh patients have recovered in Kerala, a recovery rate of 68.2 percent.

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