Kerala caught in 10% ‘positivity’ trap

AM Jigeesh / V Sajeev Kumar / Vinson Kurian New Delhi | Updated on July 10, 2021

’With the effective seroprevalence rate at 10.7 per cent (March ), a huge number of people are vulnerable’   -  The Hindu

Despite early success in fighting infection, State’s case load sets alarm bells ringing

Once a top performer in the fight against the Covid-19 virus, Kerala seems to have lost the plot into the second year and is finding it difficult to make a dent in the ‘new test positivity rate normal’ of 10 per cent.

Its early success with delaying the peak by a significant margin during the first and second wave seems to have done it in, according to Rajalakshmi Arjun, Infectious Disease Specialist at KIMSHEALTH, a leading a quaternary care hospital network in Thiruvananthapuram.

With the effective seroprevalence rate at 10.7 per cent (March), a huge number of people are vulnerable to the virus. And the second wave seems to have caught up with some already and there is concern that the third wave might set in as curbs are relaxed.

“Our fingers are crossed so long as we don’t get the vaccination drive to a feverish pitch,” she told BusinessLine. Virus mutations and variants are just too unpredictable, and we can’t take any chance. Our best calculations can go awry without a sustained vaccination drive, she said.

‘No respite’

She also felt there was signs of ‘mask fatigue’ evolving, which is the all the more reason the State should get the jabs going on a much wider scale. “Post-vaccination, we can hope to live with a mild infection.”

According to the State Health Ministry, Kerala is not seeing any respite from the rising numbers of infection. The State is gearing to face a third wave, sources in the Ministry said. In the first nine days of July, the State has reported 1.14 lakh new cases.

“We are prepared. Oxygen availability is ensured at hospitals and treatment centres. Covid and post-Covid treatment of children are also being monitored separately,” an official in the State Health Ministry said.

The State government official said that 70 per cent of the 1.98 lakh beds available in the Covid treatment centres and critical care centres are available now.

Also read: Kerala High Court chides State Excise Dept for crowds at liquor outlets

Testing is also being scaled up. “If average TPR of one week in a particular area is more than 30 per cent, we will increase the tests three-fold,” the official said.

“We are facing scarcity of vaccines and we are preparing an action plan to address this. We are giving more than two and a half lakh doses a day. The Centre should provide more vaccines to the State,” the official said.

An estimated 34.14 per cent of the population received the first dose and 11.54 per cent (38.55 lakh) received both doses of vaccine. A registration drive has also begun to ensure that all are vaccinated.

‘Still in second wave’

PT Zacharias, President, Indian Medical Association-Kerala, said the second wave is still very much on. He ruled out emergence of a feared third wave just yet. People are more aware and follow protocols strictly and a majority wear masks.

The IMA has also recommended conducting a sero-surveillance at the earliest, which would help find those who are infected and how many are still exposed. This will enable them to trace out the carriers and put them under strict monitoring. This can potentially curb the transmission.

Also read: Kerala HC asks govt to speed up process to fix transportation cost for medical oxygen

It is estimated that around 15 lakh people had returned to their native places with the outbreak of the pandemic last year. There were both symptomatic and asymptomatic persons. While symptomatic people were taken to the First Line Covid Treatment Centres, the asymptomatic group, who formed the majority, mingled with others, triggering transmission.

This is one of the contributing factors for spread of the virus in the State. “The focus should be on the people below the age group of 18 years, who are still out of the purview of vaccines,” Zacharias said. The only way out is to vaccinate at least 80 per cent of the population. But so far, only 12 per cent has received the jabs.

Published on July 09, 2021

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