Post elections, COVID situation showing signs of getting out of control in Kerala

A polling official distributing sanitizer at a voting centre in Thrissur.
A polling official distributing sanitizer at a voting centre in Thrissur during the Kerala assembly elections on April 7, 2021. Photo: Russel Shahul

Now that the elections are over, the Department of Health has exhorted the public to get back to basics like social distancing, masks and frequent washing or sanitising of hands. The Department in an official release on Thursday said the daily COVID-19 cases were showing a disturbing rise in the wake of the campaign for the 2021 Assembly polls.

On March 22, when the campaign had reached the half-way stage, the daily cases were 1,239 and those under treatment were under 25,000. "By the time the election was over, the daily COVID-19 cases had steadily climbed to 3,500," the official release said. It added that the coming three weeks would be crucial for Kerala.

The warning was sounded in the context of the galloping spread of the virus in other parts of the country. Nationally, the virus is spreading like never before. For two consecutive days, on April 6 and 7, daily cases crossed one lakh. On April 8 it was 1,26,789, the biggest single-day spike since the start of the pandemic.

Though daily cases have shown a decline compared to January and February, Kerala still is one of the most 'COVID-19'-affected states in the country. After a month of downward trend in cases, Kerala is witnessing an uptick. After Maharashtra, Kerala is the only state that has crossed 10 lakh cases.

The test positivity rate, which is the number of people found infected when 100 are tested, has also shot up. The TPR, which had fallen to 3 per cent by March, has now taken off to 6. Nonetheless, the fatality rate in Kerala, at 0.41 per cent, is one of the lowest in the country.

The Health Department warned that things could go out of control in Kerala if people were not alert enough. "We should relearn the lessons we had imbibed during the early phase of the outbreak," the official note said. "No one should forget social distancing and the need to wash hands regularly and wear masks," the note said.

The use of masks was given further emphasis. "The mask should cover both the mouth and the nose. The protection provided by a mask is very important. Therefore, stringent action would be taken against those failing to wear masks in public places," the note said.

COVID-19 in Kerala

The state government has also decided to increase daily tests. RT-PCR tests would also be increased, it was said. However, the government's early decision to have at least 70 per cent of the daily tests using RT-PCR method has not yet been achieved. Even now it is less than 60 per cent. On April 7 for instance, 33,699 were the RT-PCR tests done when the total tests were 60,554, a share of just 55 per cent.

As per the serosurveillance study, only 10.76 per cent of the state's population had been affected by COVID-19. "Since nearly 90 per cent have not contracted the virus, it is all the more important that we remain alert," the Health Department note said.

Till now 37,56,751 people have taken the first dose of the vaccination and 4,47,233 have taken the second dose. In total, 42,03,984 have taken the vaccine in Kerala.

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