Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja cautioned Thursday that coronavirus infections and deaths may further rise in the state when more restrictions are eased on September 21 as part of the Centre’s Unlock-4 guidelines. She was speaking after inaugurating a bunch of projects at the Ernakulam Medical College through video-conference from the state capital.
“So far, we have been able to keep the overall death toll under 500. In fact, Kerala and Assam are two states with the lowest mortality rate in the country among big states. But as more restrictions are eased post September 21, the number of deaths may rise. We have to be very careful. We have built a strong foundation and we have to ensure that it doesn’t break,” she said, addressing medical officials at the hospital, health staff, MLAs and local body officials.
“The days ahead are going to be tougher than the days gone by. I know that doctors, nurses and cleaning staff at hospitals have become tired. They have been working day and night without rest. But we must gather courage. We have to be ready physically and mentally for the days ahead,” she added.
The health minister admitted that the state government has not been able to procure ventilators on the scale it requires as there is a worldwide scarcity due to the effects of the pandemic. If the infection spreads rapidly among the elderly sections of the population, there is a risk of hospitals in the state facing a shortage of ventilators, she said.
“There is a shortage of ventilators in the world. We have placed orders through KMSCL and we are still waiting for them. We have been getting them in small quantities. We have to set up ICUs as well,” she said.
Shailaja, who was picked earlier this month by UK’s Prospect Magazine as one of the world’s top ‘thinkers’ for the Covid-19 age, underlined the key challenges facing the state despite its superior health indicators to the rest of the Indian states.
“As a result of our efforts over the years, life expectancy in Kerala has been high. It’s good, but in this case with the coronavirus, we have to be careful that the infection does not affect the elderly people. So far, we have been protecting them with strong reverse quarantine measures. Another challenge for us is the density of population, which in turn helps spread the infection. The third challenge is the prevalence of lifestyle diseases among a large section of the population. As you know, people with comorbidity are at greater risk of infection,” she explained.
The minister’s remarks came on a day when Kerala registered 3349 new infections and 12 deaths, with nine of the 14 districts reporting upwards of 200 cases. The state capital Thiruvananthapuram, like every day, had the most infections. The number of active cases in the state stand at 26,229.