With lockdown, Kerala's COVID-19 situation could 'stabilize by mid-September'
As the COVID-19 situation is worsening in Kerala, the Centre has reportedly recommended a lockdown to tackle the spread of infection. A central government official told India Today that if a lockdown is imposed, the situation will improve within a fortnight. Notably, Kerala accounts for 70% of all new COVID-19 cases in India with a 19% test positivity rate (TPR). Here are more details.
Highlighting the increase in TPR from 15% to 19% within three days, the official said the only way to break the chain of transmission is to impose a strict lockdown. "Kerala needs a strategic and smart containment and lockdown action, including a night curfew only in view of festivities," the official said. The state government has already been communicated in this regard, he added.
Expressing hope over the fact that seroprevalence in Kerala has crossed 60% due to improved vaccination, the official said that there is a real possibility that the situation will improve if the lockdown is imposed. The ICMR's fourth serosurvey had found 44% seroprevalence in Kerala.
On Saturday, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan announced a night curfew in the state starting Monday to control the further spread of infection. Blaming the relaxation in restrictions as the reason for the current surge, he said the pandemic was further "aggravated by the Onam rush." Vijayan said his government's objective is to avoid deaths as much as possible and vaccinate maximum people.
Separately, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Friday wrote to the Kerala government expressing concerns over the rapid surge in COVID-19 cases since July. Bhusan pointed out that despite the state government's efforts to increase testing, the test confirmation percentage remains very high, "signaling widespread transmission." He noted that 14 districts in Kerala have been identified as districts of concern.
Kerala has been reporting a high number of COVID-19 cases for over a month. On Saturday, the state remained the top contributor with a tally of 31,265 new infections, while India reported 45,083 new cases. Since July-end, the state has been witnessing a steady rise in infections, which experts attribute to the violation of norms on the festivals of Bakrid and Onam.
Meanwhile, Kerala Health Minister Veena George expressed concern over the rising percentage of people getting infected from home in the state, which she said was 35%. Referring to the ICMR's seroprevalence survey, she said more than half of the population in the state is still vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. She had said the state has the "highest number of susceptible people in the country."
Separately, Kerala has reported over 40,000 "breakthrough" cases—where individuals contract an infection despite having immunity against it, either through prior infection or vaccination. The Centre has reportedly asked the Kerala government to send all such cases for genome sequencing, suspecting new COVID-19 variants.