Lockdown relaxations during the festival season and people’s refusal to follow COVID-19 guidelines are behind Kerala’s rising TPR, experts said on Sunday, adding that people cannot be made to follow the norms at gunpoint.
As the festival season has not yet ended, the effect of the relaxations and non-COVID appropriate behaviour will be seen in the test positivity rate (TPR) which, according to experts like Dr Amar Fettle and Dr Kannan, is expected to rise further from Saturday’s 17.73 per cent. On Sunday, Kerala recorded 10,402 cases with a TPR of 16.41 per cent.
“You cannot hold a gun to people’s head and make them follow the guidelines. They need to modify their behaviour on their own,” Dr Fettle, the state nodal officer for COVID-19, said.
From 14.03 per cent on August 16, the TPR rose to 17.73 on Saturday, August 21. On Saturday, the number of fresh cases in Kerala was 17,106, almost half of the national total of 34,457.
Asked whether such a scenario was due to the easing of restrictions, the experts said that relaxations were necessary as people were cooped indoors for more than a year, since March last year, and also because of the financial crisis being faced by those without a steady income.
Since Kerala has a large population that is not yet infected by COVID-19, the infection rate is bound to increase, they said.
On top of that, the Delta strain of the virus, which is active in the state, is much more virulent than the earlier version, they said.
While the state works to bring the numbers down, sufficient medical infrastructure and personnel are in place to handle the rising caseload, and the capacity can be increased if required, Dr Fettle said.
He said that presently only 40 to 60 per cent of COVID beds were occupied and not all of the infected persons would require hospitalisation, as many among them may have been vaccinated with one or two doses.
He said time has gone when the government could enforce the guidelines by force, now people have to do that themselves.
Kerala Health Minister Veena George, on August 19, had said that TPR was high in the state due to more tests being conducted and had asked everyone to be vigilant during Onam.
“While lives and livelihood are important, self-preservation was also important,” she said.
“You cannot hold a gun to peoples head and make them follow the guidelines. They need to modify their behaviour on their own,” Dr Fettle said. “Instead of government orders, an emotional cry to the people is needed to follow the norms.”
A similar view was expressed by Dr Kannan, who said that when police officers point out violations of COVID norms in shops during the festive season, the reaction they get from the shop owners or the public is that they are ready to face the legal consequences.
This, he said, was due to the fact that people, especially merchants and small businessmen, have been starving due to loss of revenue due to the lockdown and subsequent restricted opening of businesses.