Kerala struggles with rising Covid cases; Zika virus outbreak adds to its woes

Wednesday 14th July 2021 07:21 EDT

Thiruvananthapuram: Rising Covid-19 cases in Kerala, coupled with the recent outbreak of the Zika virus, is causing concern to the health authorities as the southern state battles to bring down the fresh infections. The state is now seeing daily fresh cases between 12,000 to 15,000 with no end in sight to the 'prolonged surge', as some experts put it. Add to the woes to the state is the infection of 19 Zika virus cases.

Health Minister Veena George had recently said the virus numbers spiked due to certain unlock measures and that they were expected to go down soon. While on June 1 this year, Kerala reported 19,760 positive cases, there was a slight decline for a week with 9,313 new cases being recorded on June 7. However, two days later it again shot up to 16,204. For over a month, the state has been reporting cases between 11,000 to 13,000 on a daily basis.

While the medical experts praised the Kerala government for its preventive measures which helped keep the infection rate from peaking drastically, some opined the administration's inability to enforce Covid appropriate behaviour after the unlock phase came into effect was one of the reasons that the numbers have not gone down.

Dr T S Anish, who specialises in community medicine, said the present situation has its pros and cons. A prolonged infection rate would put stress on the doctors and other healthcare workers and in case a third wave comes, the medical system which is partially filled could be overwhelmed. He also said it was a matter of concern that the government was unable to reduce the rate of infection.

Virologist Dr Sarada said people were not following Covid appropriate behaviour which was also a reason for the cases not declining. She and Anish were of the view that vaccination was the key, the only solution and the state government should try to get the vaccine in more quantities by whatever means. Sarada also said that other states may not be showing such high numbers as they probably were not testing their rural population unlike Kerala. Citing the positive side of the situation, Dr Anish said the government was able to prevent a sharp increase during the peak of the second wave by putting in place a lockdown and thereby, ensured the healthcare system was not overwhelmed.

This steady rate of infection could also help to prevent a third wave as the health system or machinery would be vigilant and would quickly detect any new variant or mutation. According to him, if the cases go down substantially, the system would be less vigilant as there would be less testing and therefore, by the time a new variant or mutation is detected the third wave would have already hit.

Dr Amar Fettle, the state nodal officer for Covid said that the Kerala government was carrying out extensive testing to ensure no one who is infected is missed out and it was taking measures to ensure elderly people and children, who would be vulnerable to infection, are protected. Fettle said that after a long period of lockdown, when the unlock phase comes into effect people venture out and therefore, the infection re-enters homes. A prolonged surge is better than a short spike or wave, as then the healthcare system will not be overburdened, he said.

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