Low testing, contact tracing blamed for Kerala's COVID-19 situation: Report
Even as the coronavirus outbreak has largely slowed down across India, the Kerala state continues to see a huge daily spike in infections. Kerala was notably the first Indian state to report a COVID-19 case on January 30, 2020, and was initially praised for its outbreak response. Reportedly, officials blame the lack of contact tracing and less number of tests for the situation.
As of Monday, Kerala reported 8,93,639 COVID-19 cases, including 3,624 deaths and 8,19,156 recoveries. The state recorded 3,361 new infections in the past 24 hours, with 30,903 tests (10.8% daily infection rate). On Monday morning, India had reported 13,203 new infections recorded over the previous 24 hours. Over the same period, Kerala had reported 6,036 new cases or 45.7% of the nationwide total.
Sources in the Health Ministry told NDTV out of the top 20 districts in the country reporting a high number of daily infections, 11 are from Kerala, including Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Alleppey, Kottayam, and Pathanamthitta. A source said, "Kerala has not been following contact tracing effectively. At least 4-5 contact tracing is necessary per case. Clinical management also needs to be strengthened in the state."
The sources said the state has also not increased testing despite recommendations from the teams formed by the Centre to assist states worst affected by the pandemic. The Indian Medical Association had earlier recommended that daily testing needs to be increased to around one lakh. "The per day testing still continues to be between 40,000-60,000," IMA's central committee member Dr. Sulphi Noohu said.
However, according to the state government, COVID-19 cases in Kerala are at a plateau and the current numbers are not unexpected. Reportedly, the state government has admitted that the positivity rate is high, but critical care services in the hospitals are not under any pressure. Only 15% of ventilator beds and 49% of ICU beds are occupied, according to state government statistics.
Dr. Mohammed Asheel—a core committee member on COVID-19—told NDTV, "If [hospital admission rate] seems to increase, then it's a cause of great concern. But that's not the case." "If cases were not increasing, it would have shown that our 'Break the Chain' campaign had failed. Our success is that our case fatality rate is still among the lowest in India at 0.4%," he added.