Hailed for successfully handling the COVID-19 pandemic in its initial days, Kerala now seems to lose it all to a massive increase in fresh cases every day.
From just a solitary new COVID-19 case on May 8 to clocking over 10,000 fresh infections in a single-day, it has seen a total reverse in the pandemic situation in the last five months.
Saturday’s 11,755 new cases was the highest singe-day surge for the southern state that made it surpass the daily tally of Maharashtra and Karnataka, among the high case load states, for the day. Maharashtra, which is leading the states in total infections, on Saturday reported 11,416 new cases while Karnataka added 10,517 cases.
Kerala, which won global praise for its strategy in containing the spread of the pandemic in the initial months after reporting the first COVID-19 case in the country in January, has been witnessing a sharp spike in new infections since last month.
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The increase was, though, on expected lines as experts had predicted that the state was likely to witness a steep rise in the months of August and September with daily infections forecast to touch between 10,000 to 20,000.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had on Saturday said October-November months were crucial and cautioned people to strictly follow the health protocol to reduce death rates.
The country’s first coronavirus case was detected in the state on January 30 after a woman medical student from Wuhan returned. The second and third cases were also Wuhan returnees, but it effectively checked any large scale spread then while the three also recovered.
From January-March, the state had 499 cases, out of which 33 per cent was through local transmission and there were three deaths. Case fatality rate at that time was 0.5 per cent.
When the lockdown was declared on March 24, the government got some time to improve its health system and up to May 3 there were no other cases.
“The whole world looked at us and asked us the method to flatten the graph,” Health Minister K K Shailaja said. After May 4, things changed as the lockdown was eased and people started returning to the state from abroad, mainly Gulf, and other states. Nine lakh people have returned to the state since then, she said.
On May 8, after reporting a solitary case and with just 16 people under treatment, Kerala had announced it had flattened the COVID-19 curve. Five months later on October 7, the state’s fresh infections crossed 10,000 mark for the first time and on Friday, it saw an addition of 9,250 cases. The total infection count mounted to 2,77,855 on Saturday and the active cases stood at 95,918.
The celebrations during the Onam festival and the political protests held without following COVID-19 protocol, have been cited by the government among the reasons for the growth in cases. A total of 978 people have lost their lives to the deadly virus with the capital Thiruvananthapuram accounting for 306.
Of those who succumbed, 699 were in the 60 plus age group, 234 in 41-59 and 42 in the 18-40 age group. Kerala’s 83.8 per cent cases are due to contact and 13.39 per cent have nil travel history and the remaining were travellers and returnees. The silver lining is that the case fatality rate which was 0.77 per cent in May has been brought down to 0.37 per cent in September.
Dr Amar Fettle, state Nodal officer for Covid, said though there was a steady increase in cases, the recoveries were also happening. The people were lowering their guard and this will lead to increase in absolute cases. The state was facing a dangerous situation, he said.
As part of measures to curb overcrowding, the Kerala government has also clamped prohibitory orders till the end of this month in various districts as per which not more than
five people can assemble at a place at a time.