The Math in the Kerala Covid Numbers

Everyone lauded Kerala when it had managed to contain the first wave of Covid-19 cases. So what is happening now? Saira Shah explains the math in the 'sudden' Covid surge in Kerala

30th January 2020 was the time Covid-19 was declared a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’ by WHO.

In India, Kerala was the first state affected by Covid-19, and the first coronavirus case was confirmed in the Thrissur district on 30 January 2020. By early March the state soon had the highest number of active cases in India mainly due to a huge number of cases imported from other countries and states. Using the five components of trace, quarantine, test, isolate and treat, the exemplary manner in which the state has been fighting the pandemic is clear through its efforts to flatten the curve, for quite some time, the state has been a shining example not only in India but across the world as a state that has the resolve and leadership that could turn things around with a high recovery rate, low death rate and slow progression of Covid-19 cases in the country. Quoted extensively by the national and international press, the then former minister for health and family welfare KK Shailaja was heralded as a messiah of health care in Kerala. The state has been a beacon of hope widely recognised for its efforts by policymakers, the public, researchers and clinicians, in India and internationally.

So, what exactly happened in God’s own country after the second wave hit the nation? Why is everyone alarmed about Kerala maintaining the highest speed of the infection spread?

A mathematical study has revealed that the key strategies implemented by Kerala like surveillance, effective quarantine, higher testing numbers, uninterrupted treatment services, timely community participation, and adequate care of the elderly and people afflicted with co-morbidities were the primary reason Kerala was able to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the past few weeks, the focus is back on Kerala, not for containing the pandemic but for a ‘sudden’ surge in Covid no’s in the state.

It gets all the more unsettling when there is irresponsible reportage on the Kerala Covid surge, some very disturbingly on communal grounds citing a recent festival and accusing the Kerala government of succumbing to traders’ pressure to relax Covid norms for festival shopping.

This accusation is unfair and biased, as any person with little knowledge of science would know that infection surge does not happen in two days of Covid norm relaxation.

I decided to delve into the math of the numbers in Kerala and wonder why no one was talking about the low seropositivity rate in Kerala.

Having a low seropositivity rate in Kerala is a good sign because it reflects that the public health measures adopted have been effective in reducing the spread of the virus in a low vaccination scenario.

A lower rate of seropositivity in states with low vaccine output means that fewer people have been exposed to the virus due to public health measures.

In January 2021, schools in Kerala had opened up partially for classes 10th and 12th with limited hours and a restricted number of students. Physical exams were also held in the state with strict compliance.

Offline exams were conducted this year as Kerala had ensured effective public health measures, since Kerala has a largely susceptible population, it should have been all the more imperative for the central government to prioritize the vaccination drive in Kerala.
Giving the background of the failure for provisions of vaccines on time has led to single out Kerala for being the state for having a large population who are seronegative or not exposed to the virus.

Consider keeping in mind that on average Kerala does testing of 140,000 a day, compare that with a state like West Bengal that has a population of three times the size of Kerala, It does testing of about 50,000 daily.

Recently hundreds of corpses were found floating in the Ganges, bodies suspected to be of Covid-19 victims in Uttar Pradesh. These deaths are unaccounted for.

That explains the death count surge in Kerala, it’s a relief to know that near actual figures are being punched in the official database and not fudged ones.

Saira Shah Halim

is a rights activist and an educator

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