Centre blames Kerala’s ‘negligence’ during Onam for COVID surge

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan says this should serve as a warning to other states and they should be careful with their planning during the ongoing festival period

Representative photo: PTI

Not long ago, the Kerala model of fighting the coronavirus was winning praise from all over the world for the state’s ability to control the spread. But, now, it is seeing an exponential rise in cases. The Centre has said the state’s laxity during the Onam celebrations is responsible for the spike.

Between October 1 and October 17, Kerala reported 1.35 lakh confirmed cases, a far cry from the period between January 30 and May 3, when it had only 499 cases and two deaths due to COVID.

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The cases increased due to Kerala’s “gross negligence” during the Onam festivities from August 22 to September 2, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said on  Sunday (October 18). He said this should serve as a warning to other states and they should be careful with their planning during the ongoing festival period.   

“Kerala paid the price for its gross negligence. After having good control on the virus during the initial phase of the pandemic, the situation now has worsened,” Vardhan said.

In the beginning, the majority of confirmed cases were concentrated in the Kasargod and Kannur districts, he said. Subsequently, COVID-19 cases cropped up in other districts due to increase in both inter and intrastate movement of people due to trade and tourism.

And then, “the epicurve of Kerala changed completely due to Onam festivities across the state during the months of August and September,” the minister said.

During Onam, there were huge congregations across the state where people collected in large numbers and did not take adequate precautions. Kerala which was reporting an average of 2,000 daily cases in the first week of September, later started adding 7,000 to 8,000 cases daily, he pointed out.

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“Other states should learn a lesson from Kerala’s spurt in Covid cases due to negligence during the Onam season. All states need to be careful during the festival season and ensure COVID-appropriate behaviour is followed diligently. Else, it may result in rapid increase in cases,” he said. “This caution must be exercised for at least three months.”   

On Saturday, Kerala reported 9,016 new cases, taking the total number of people who have been infected with the virus to 3,32,228. The state’s death toll was 1,139.

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