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Ageing population, density are key reasons for Kerala’s high Covid cases

Our Bureaus Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on July 30, 2021

With sero-prevalence of just 45%, a vast section susceptible to the Delta rampage

The rampaging Covid Delta variant left 22,064 more infected in Kerala on Thursday, the third day on a trot when the daily count has been above the 22,000-mark. With Kerala accounting for almost half the number of daily cases in the country, the Centre deputed a six-member high-level multi-disciplinary team to help the State tackle the situation.

As eminent virologist T Jacob John explains, the Delta variant is like a heat-seeking missile. It will seek out the uninfected. And what makes the situation more complex are the State’s disadvantages of population density and extended life expectancy (or, ageing), says John, a retired professor and head of Departments of Clinical Virology and Microbiology at CMC Vellore, and a former director of the ICMR’s Centre of Advanced Research in Virology.

 

Low sero-prevalence

Virologist Gagandeep Kang said in a media interview that the “best explanation” for a State with 2-3 per cent of the country’s population accounting for over 50 per cent of the daily increase in cases nationwide lies in the fact that Kerala’s sero-positivity, as established by the fourth nationwide sero-survey, is substantially less than the national average. Kerala’s figure is 43 per cent compared to the national figure of 68 per cent. This means that well over 50 per cent of the Kerala population — a much higher percentage than any other State — remains vulnerable.

She pointed out that the Delta variant hit Kerala later than the rest of the country. Therefore, it is spreading at a rate similar to that at which it earlier spread in the rest of the country.

Srinath Reddy, head of the Public Health Foundation of India, too echoes this, saying the second wave is prolonging in Kerala as it has a high number of susceptible people, who have not yet been infected. And to add to this, it is a high density state and has an ageing population.

The northern districts of Malappuram (3,679), Thrissur (2,752), Kozhikode (2,619), Ernakulam (2,359), and Palakkad (2,034) led the surge while three others reported over 1,000 infections each.

Kerala had recently relaxed its weekend lockdowns though the TPR was high, and this had even invited a rap from the Supreme Court. Earlier this month, the State had made concessions ahead of Bakrid (Eid-ul-Adha) against recommendations of the medical community and doubled the number of pilgrims allowed to the hill-top shrine of Sabarimala to 10,000 when the temple opened for five days. Late on Wednesday night, the State government said that it was reinstating the weekend lockdown on Saturday and Sunday (July 31 and August 1) after the Supreme Court strongly disagreed with its moves to allow relaxations.

Next 3 weeks crucial

State Health Minister Veena George said, “People need to observe utmost vigil for the next three weeks from the viewpoint of accelerated Covid transmission. We managed to hold TPR back to a plateau of around 10 per cent for more than a month. There has been slight rise in the TPR since July 20 but this is not alarming," she said.

Family clusters detected

PT Zacharias, President, IMA Kerala, said the vaccination drive should be accelerated with the support of private hospitals as that is the only remedy at hand.

The State had run out of vaccine a couple of days ago, but it received 9,72,590 doses on Wednesday night. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya had recently assured a delegation of MPs from Kerala that its vaccine requirement will be met.

Published on July 29, 2021

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