Experts differ with Kerala's justifications over persistence of Covid-19 in state

Last Updated 28 January 2021, 12:29 IST

Even as Kerala government is trying to justify the high number of Covid-19 cases in the state even a year after the first case in the country was detected in the state by citing strategy of delaying the peak, high population density and relaxations in social distancing norms, experts beg to differ.

Low number of daily tests, especially RT-PCR, keeping off private hospital sector that constitutes about 80 per cent of the state's health infrastructure from the fight against Covid-19, not engaging public health experts in devising strategies to curb Covid-19 and trying to make political advantage out of the situation are cited by experts as reasons for the pandemic to prolong unabated in Kerala.

The first Covid-19 case in the country was reported in Kerala on January 30, 2020. Now the state continues to have the high number of daily fresh cases and the number of active cases is way ahead of other states at 72,234 as on January 27. The number of cases in Kerala was comparatively very low initially and the state got much appreciation for effectively curbing the spread of Covid-19. Even at that stage, there were criticisms that the state was trying to keep the figures low by conducting comparatively few number of tests, which now seems to be genuine.

Though the number of tests were increased to more than 50,000 daily, only around 30 per cent of the tests were RT-PCR tests, which is considered to be accurate. The major chuck of test were antigen tests, which was not considered to be accurate.

Public health expert Dr V Ramankutty said it was quite surprising that Covid-19 remains unabated in the state even after one year. Though the specific reason for this could not be ascertained, high number of RT-PCR tests right from the initial months and isolating the infected could have delivered a better outcome. While Kerala now blames it on easing of social distancing norms for the spike, in other states social distancing norms were not strictly followed even when Covid-19 scenario was at its peak.

Rejecting the government's claims of delaying the peak, Dr S S Lal, a former technical officer at the World Health Organization, said that instead of trying to curb Covid-19, Kerala tried to move along with it. The state got adequate time in the initial months to prepare to face the pandemic. There after maximum persons should have been tested and isolated. He also accused the government for keeping away private hospitals from Covid-19 treatment.

The opinion of Indian Medical Association that represented about 80 per cent of the doctors were not considered. Even many public health experts and senior officials of the state health department did not have much say in devising strategies against Covid-19. The government's focus was to earn political mileage out of the pandemic, alleged Dr. Lal, who is also president of All India Professionals' Congress, Kerala Chapter.

The IMA state leadership urged the government to enhance the vaccination drive. In the present rate it would take months for vaccinating even the health workers, they said.

Experts also flay that the social distancing norms were now being flouted rampantly as the enforcement agencies have also lowered the guard.

(Published 28 January 2021, 11:56 IST)

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