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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Lax home isolation the reason for Kerala surge: Central team

Kerala has been an outlier in that Covid case numbers have stubbornly refused to come down in the state, even as almost the entire country has seen infections abate dramatically after the second wave of April-May.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi |
Updated: August 3, 2021 8:14:45 am
Beneficiaries wait to receive a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in Thiruvananthapuram. (PTI) (PTI07_30_2021_000183A)

A central high-level multi-disciplinary team that is currently visiting Kerala is learnt to have concluded that the state’s Covid-19 surge has been triggered by inadequate monitoring of coronavirus-positive individuals in home isolation because of pandemic fatigue.

Significantly, based on the preliminary communication by the expert team to top officials at the Centre, sources said that the “inspired narrative” that minority-dominated districts were driving the surge in Covid infections especially after the Eid celebrations was “probably not correct”.

Kerala has been an outlier in that Covid case numbers have stubbornly refused to come down in the state, even as almost the entire country has seen infections abate dramatically after the second wave of April-May.

Given this situation, the Centre on July 29 despatched a six-member team headed by Dr Sujeet Singh, director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to Kerala, to take stock of the situation and recommend necessary public health interventions.

Top government sources said the team is currently visiting districts with high positivity, and will submit a detailed report soon.

“There was an inspired narrative that the districts which are minority dominant are showing higher positivity. The team has found that Pathanamthitta district, which is minority-dominated, is in fact, showing a lower positivity of around 6.5-7 per cent,” a top official told The Indian Express.

“When you look at others districts with 12-13 per cent positivity, and some are reporting even 17 per cent positivity, this whole narrative that minority districts are driving the pandemic in Kerala is probably not correct,” the official said.

Instead, sources said, the central team had found that people in home isolation in the state were not being monitored closely enough, leading to the spread of the infection.

“The team has said that there was inadequate monitoring of people who are in home isolation. People who have tested positive and are in home isolation are generally circulating in the neighbourhood, and therefore spreading the infection. This is a preliminary assessment. The team is now visiting some of the districts which are reporting high positivity,” a source said.

The “major factor” behind the lax monitoring of home isolation was the “general pandemic fatigue” in the state that has a very robust public health cadre.

“The major factor is the general pandemic fatigue among the public health cadre. States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu have grassroots public health cadre who are present on the ground. These public health cadre officials were earlier monitoring home isolation patients very rigorously. But because of the fatigue, there is less than adequate monitoring, due to which (Covid-positive) people are roaming around,” the source said.

Officials said the team has recommended that in order to ensure effective clinical management of the disease, the state should admit to hospital all those patients with otherwise mild symptoms who are “slightly serious”.

“The central team thought that the…state should take a call, whoever is slightly serious among the mild symptoms, they should be hospitalised. Because Covid-19 beds in Kerala are mostly lying vacant,” the source said.

The central team has also identified the recent spike in deaths as a cause for concern. “…In the last three weeks, the weekly death figures are going up. Historically, Kerala had lower death rates. But now Kerala is seeing 55-65 deaths a day,” the official said.

The full reasons behind the surge in deaths, especially with regard to critical issues related to effective implementation of clinical management protocols, will be detailed in the report of the central team, sources said.

The central team travelled to Kerala against the backdrop of the state contributing over 37 per cent of the country’s active cases. According data tracked by the Centre, 11 districts reported more than 10 per cent positivity between July 26 and August 1: Palakkad (19.43 per cent), Thrissur (15.53 per cent), Wayanad (14.27 per cent), Malappuram (13.94 per cent), Kozhikode (13.42 per cent), Kannur (12.68 per cent), Kottayam (11.01 per cent), Ernakulam (10.95 per cent), Alappuzha (10.92 per cent), Kollam (10.36 per cent), and Kasargod (10.11 per cent).

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