New Delhi: When the Covid-19 pandemic hit India in March, Kerala emerged as an example of how to properly handle the novel coronavirus.
But over time, the state seems to have been attacked by the virus when they took their eye off the ball, said ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta.
During the first wave of the virus in Kerala, between 30 January and 3 May, the state had only 499 cases and two deaths. At present, the state has 3,17,929 total cases and about one lakh active cases. All of Kerala’s cases account for about 12 per cent of the country’s cases, Gupta added.
Kerala’s positivity rate is about 13 per cent, which could be called the second worst in the country after Maharashtra. The state is also conducting more rapid antigen tests than RT-PCR tests.
Kasaragod district, which was the model for containment approach with several residents coming in from abroad, currently has a positivity rate of over 20 per cent.
Despite such a high positivity rate, ThePrint found that 53 per cent of the hospital beds in Kasaragod are still vacant.
This is so because there is a three-tier system of Covid centres. The first frontline teams check for symptoms, and if found, the patient is sent for further care. Ambulances are always on time since early treatment is what saves lives. The third treatment includes giving the patient steroids and oxygen, said Gupta.
Gupta said that a big disadvantage for Kerala is its population density, which is 859 per square kilometres compared to the national average of 467. With the problem of overcrowding, the virus is prone to spreading faster and officials of Kerala do agree that there is community transmission happening in small pockets of the state.
Adding to the demographic factor is the geographical component. Kerala is a ‘rurban’ state. With villages spread over large areas, it is difficult to tell where one city ends and the other begins, he added.
The third disadvantage is that Kerala has a high population with diabetes. As many as 13.5 per cent of women are diabetic as compared to the national average of 8.6 per cent. Among men, 19.4 per cent are diabetic compared to the national average of 11.9 per cent.
ThePrint’s reporters also found that the Kerala government has given up the idea of containing the pandemic. They no longer screen travellers coming to the state by roads.
Despite these shortcomings, there is one factor that makes Kerala the winner and that is, its case fatality rate. While the country has a fatality rate of 1.52, Kerala’s fatality rate is 0.35 per cent. This means only 7 people will die out of 2,000.
This is because the government says that they have stopped trying to control the pandemic and are instead trying to minimise deaths. They have set up nurse-run facilities for those who are mildly symptomatic. This way paramedic staff is always around when the symptoms get worse for any patients. Only young people or those who are asymptomatic are permitted to home-quarantine, Gupta added.
Punjab ‘worst performer’
Talking about Punjab, which has also not performed well, Gupta said: “Surprisingly, a progressive state like Punjab is the last when it comes to the case fatality rate of 3.13 per cent.”
As many as 25 per cent of all patients, who arrived in a hospital, had died, Gupta said. Quoting Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Gupta added that this is because people are coming to the hospitals when it’s too late.
ThePrint’s reporters found that the reason for this is people don’t believe that a virus exists and there is a general lack of awareness regarding the disease.
“I don’t think the Punjab government can justify the high fatality rate by saying that their government is bankrupt because so is Kerala’s. A state that has been feeding the country for the last four decades must have some justification for being the worst performer during a pandemic,” said Gupta.
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