The daily number of COVID-19 cases may cross the 30,000-mark in Kerala soon, experts have said. A post Onam surge is expected in the next few days which may worsen the situation in a few districts that already show a test positivity rate of more than 20.
While cautioning that the coming four weeks are extremely crucial for the state, Health Minister Veena George has said that the government has no plans to impose a complete lockdown. She told the media that Kerala has been battling the current situation fairly well.
“The government is targeting hundred per cent vaccination (first dose) for the targeted adult population by the end of September. In terms of vaccination, Kerala goes above the national average,” says Veena George.
“Kerala with 3 per cent of India’s population accounts for 57 per cent of cases reported last week. In the coming weeks, Kerala may account for up to 75 per cent of cases in the country. In nutshell, the coming weeks are very crucial for Kerala,” says Dr Padmanabha Shenoy, a COVID-19 expert and rheumatologist.
Other experts say the daily cases must have already crossed 25,000 in the state. “The number of tests has substantially come down over a week due to the festival and holidays. If we had kept the test high, we would have reached 25,000 already,” says Dr Arun N M.
He, however, said that Kerala is equipped enough to handle the surge. “Even if we have 30,000 cases a day, I don’t think the situation will be very critical. The ICU and Ventilator occupancy in the State does not show an alarming rise” says Dr Arun. He observed that a few days after the peak during the second wave (May 12), the ICU occupancy was just below 4,000.
He, however, anticipates that the situation in a few districts could be worrying. “We have to expect hospitals of being overcrowded in a few districts like Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kollam where the TPR has been consistently high,” he added.
As per the figures provided in the COVID Jagratha portal, 60.8 per cent of the total beds (excluding ICU) across 559 COVID-19 hospitals (both in public and private sector) in Kerala are vacant. ICU and ventilator vacancy is 37.3 per cent and 32.4 per cent respectively. Around 45.5 per cent of non-ICU oxygen beds also are available.
Though the state level data is not very alarming, the district-wise data of hospital availability gives a reason to worry. The data indicates that a few districts where infection rate is consistently high would soon face a dearth of beds, ICUs and ventilators. For example, in Malappuram district, which has been recording the highest test positivity rate since a few days, 89 per cent of ventilator beds are occupied. Among the total 267 ICU beds in the districts, only 70 remain vacant. Around 55.1 per cent of beds are available across 82 COVID hospitals in the district. Around 60 per cent of non-ICU oxygen beds also are occupied in the district.
“We will see an uptick in cases in the coming weeks. The only question is whether we will see higher a number of cases than what we saw during the May peak. Due to vaccination and prior infection, as higher proportion of people are immune to COVID, hopefully we will see a decrease in proportion of hospital admissions. But if the cases cross 40,000 a day, there will be definitely a strain on health care resources,” says Dr Padmanabha Shenoy.