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With more than 54,700 cases in April, Covid concerns on a high in Kerala

According to experts, unless mortality rates are high or some severe issues are reported, there is no reason to panic

Covid-19, coronavirus

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Shine JacobAnoushka Sawhney Chennai/Mumbai

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About 54,713 cases in the month of April so far, reporting around 2,100 cases a day over the last seven days, an average test positivity rate (TPR) of 26 per cent across the state, 11 out of 14 districts having a TPR of more than 21 per cent and contributing to 39 per cent of the rise in active cases in the country on Wednesday, Kerala is once again becoming the hotbed of Covid 19.

However, experts are divided, with some pointing this as the success of an efficient health system, while others are highlighting that the number of cases are much higher due to more antigen tests in the state, which are not reported too.

Kerala has been reporting roughly 2,100 cases a day over the last seven days, based on disclosures available in the ministry of health and family welfare website. This is nearly three times the 700-odd cases seen at the beginning of April (chart 1), though the number of active cases have been coming down, based on data compiled by Business Standard. The daily figures were arrived at based on change in active cases, deaths and those who were cured or no longer needed treatment. Death data shows around seven instances a week. There were none at the beginning of April, though the last few days have also seen this tapering off.

With machinery like the government’s Covid task forces inactive, the state’s focus is on approaching Covid-19 as a normal disease or flu, says sources. “Covid is not being considered as a standalone issue. There is no special committee for that, cases are under surveillance at a district level. In all the districts cases have increased,” said a source.

Among the states in Kerala, Wayanad, Ernakulam and Idukki saw the maximum TPR of 33 per cent, 32 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. Other districts like Kannur, Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Kollam, Thrissur, Kasargod, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram have a TPR of over 20 per cent.

Interestingly, the old age population is the most vulnerable in the state and as available government data early this month, around 85 per cent of Covid deaths in the state were reported in people above 60 years of age.  This is worrying for Kerala, where the percentage of people with age of 60 years and above are 16.5 per cent in Kerala, the highest proportion in any Indian state.  Based on one reported data, Kerala reported 47,024 new Covid cases between April 1 and 22, more than double the number of cases in Delhi (22,528) and Maharashtra (17,238).

According to experts, unless mortality rates are high or some severe issues are reported, there is no reason to panic. “Throughout the history of Covid, around 40-60 per cent of the cases were reported in Kerala. But it did not overflow like in other states. Due to our surveillance, we are detecting even mild cases.  The probability of a person being tested and reported to a hospital is very high in Kerala. Cases are detected due to the strength of the health system and there is no need to look at any other thing, other than deaths on Covid,” said Anish TS, associate professor of community medicine at Government Medical College, Manjeri in Kerala.

In Kerala, the testing rate is low. While the government reports RT-PCR tests, the majority of the tests done are antigen, of which many are done at home. Hence, the actual number of positive cases will be much higher than the reported ones. Most people with Covid symptoms stay home and do not visit the doctor. Those who report to doctors are reluctant to be tested,” said Rajeev Jayadevan, Co-Chairman National Indian Medical Association Covid Task Force. He added that those vulnerable like the old age population, people with comorbidities should take extra care. “Indoor social gatherings should also be restricted until the surge is over,” he added.

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First Published: Apr 27 2023 | 10:01 PM IST

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