Updated: August 2, 2021 8:05:06 am
After falling appreciably for most of May and June, India’s Covid graph plateaued last month. Kerala has been one of the notable outliers in the country’s second wave recovery. The state added more than 20,000 cases every day on five days last week — about half the country’s caseload — and its positivity rate is more than six times the national average. The BJP has ascribed the spike to the relaxation of curbs during Eid, while the Kerala government has blamed the rising caseload on vaccine shortage. Though there is truth to both these claims, it’s also apparent that Kerala’s situation is a complicated one, and resolving it will need the Centre and state government to put their heads together — a blame game is the last thing the state needs at this critical juncture. It’s, therefore, welcome that the Centre has dispatched a team of experts to study the situation in the state’s worst affected areas.
The nationwide serosurvey results indicate that less than 45 per cent of Kerala’s population has been exposed to the virus — way below the national average of 68 per cent. It seems that the state’s initial success in curbing the spread of the infection is now working against it: A majority of its population lacks antibodies against the more infectious variants driving the second wave. Kerala has done well to keep its case fatality rate low — at 0.87 per cent, it’s the lowest amongst the states that reported the most fatalities last week. But with the state’s RO figure — number of people to whom an infected person can transmit the disease — going past the danger threshold of 1, the state has lost about 100 people to Covid every day in the past 10 days. The Kerala government has attempted to strike a balance between lives and livelihoods with a weekly lockdown policy and by restricting the working hours at business centres. But with people crowding markets during the limited hours at their disposal, such restrictions could end up becoming counterproductive.
The serosurvey results offer more clues to solving the Kerala conundrum. Though the state’s vaccine coverage is much above the national figure, the survey indicates that a far larger section of its population will need vaccine-produced antibodies in the next few weeks to check the second wave. With vaccines continuing to be scarce, the state government will need to strategise their rollout — giving special attention to districts with high infection incidence. The expert team’s insights could prove invaluable in this respect, as well as in fine-tuning other containment measures. At the same time, the Centre must not waver from its commitment to increase vaccine supply from August onwards.
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