Updated: March 30, 2020 7:17:40 am
The numbers are reassuringly still low for comparison with global hotspots, the trajectory of the coronavirus’s spread is still unclear, but experts in Kerala, fingers firmly crossed, say there is a glimmer in the state.
Of the 202 cases that tested positive for COVID-19 in Kerala until Sunday, 181 are still in hospital and only four of them needed critical care — admission in the Intensive Care Unit.
Of these four, one passed away Saturday, a 54-year-old man who had returned from the Gulf, the other three are being closely monitored.
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This is a significant number even if we are in the early stage of the outbreak, said A S Anoop Kumar, a senior expert and the member of advisory panel for Kerala government’s COVID-19 treatment and prevention. It works out to just under 2 per cent.
Good sign, will help planning
These are still early days in the outbreak in India, and the number of cases has just crossed 1,000 when the global total is over 7 lakh — even so, the fact that such a small number of COVID-19 patients needed to be admitted to the ICU offers a glimmer of hope regarding the virulence of the infection. These hopeful signs will also help Kerala plan its next steps in the battle better, according to officials in the state.
Moreover, the R-0 (R-naught, reproduction number) that refers to the number of people, on an average, who are infected by one corona-positive indivdual, is also below 1 in Kerala, said Kumar. For the country, that number is around 1.81.
“For about 180 cases, there can be at least 35 people who are sick, eight to 10 are expected to be in ICU or in need of ventilators. But we didn’t have to use them. Maybe because the infection-level in Kerala was much lower than expected, or maybe it depends on the kind of population that is getting affected. Or the age group? There are many factors which we need to ascertain,” Kumar said.
Underlining that this is an early stage of the outbreak in India and several factors play a role in local transmission, Kumar said that these early hopeful signs will help the state plan the next steps.
Other than those in critical care, many in the “high-risk” group (elderly, underlying conditions) were also stable and responding “positively,” said a senior health official. These include the 92-year-old patient from Pathanamthitta and his wife in her late 80s.
Acknowledging these positive indicators, state health secretary Rajan N Khobragade said that the the government was “geared to face any kind of eventuality.”
Until Saturday, about 1,34,370 people were under surveillance in Kerala. Most of them are in home quarantine.
G R Santhosh Kumar, the UNICEF consultant in northern Kerala during the Nipah outbreak, said that even if this is an early stage, the credit for such a “positive trend” goes to Kerala’s public health army.
“Hundreds of our junior public health nurses, lady health inspectors, health supervisors, health inspectors and Asha (Accredited Social Health Activists) workers are the people who are fighting this virus now. The amount of risk they have taken to trace thousands of contacts and the collective networks where they share and take information about people being quarantined. all these grass-roots level interventions are definitely going to reduce the load of this outbreak in Kerala,” he said.
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