Covid-19 likely to spike as festival season nears

Covid-19 likely to spike as festival season nears

Representative image. Credit: Reuters Photo

The upcoming festive season is likely to pose huge challenges for India, which is at a critical moment in its Covid-19 fight, with the situation in Kerala offering a glimpse of what is to come if guidelines are violated.

In Kerala, the number of new coronavirus cases have ballooned in the last one week, with the Malabar state reporting nearly 59,000 fresh infections since Monday.

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The state, which till a fortnight ago was not among the top 10 list of states with the maximum number of new cases, saw a huge surge following the Onam festivities (between August 22 and September 2) when people may have possibly lowered their guard against the virus.

Close to 60% of the active cases in Kerala was added in the past one week, with 9,250 cases registered in the last 24 hours, as per the Union Health Ministry.

According to the state government data released in the evening, there were 11,755 new cases on Saturday.

"Onam gave a start," Girdhar R Babu, an epidemiologist at the Public Health Foundation of India told DH. "But the surge in Kerala is expected from an epidemiological perspective given the vast majority of the population was susceptible. This is a lesson for all the regions/districts, which have not seen a surge in cases earlier. The surge is inevitable in every area. What matters is if the area is prepared well in reducing mortality." 

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Going by the Health Ministry data, 10 states and Union Territories account for 79% of fresh cases, with Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala topping the chart. The gap between the two southern neighbours is just about 1,600 cases.

With Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh occupying the next two positions in the list — each with 5,000-plus new cases — it is the southern India along with Maharashtra that is fuelling the pandemic at the moment.

But there is every possibility of the epidemic shifting its gear and galloping throughout the north and east Indian states in another two weeks, with the beginning of the festive season that would start with Durga Puja later this month followed by Dussehra, Eid and Diwali.

"We are still in the middle of the pandemic. Maintaining safe physical distance from others and wearing masks and hand hygiene are essential. But many wear masks like they use a helmet," commented Oommen John, a public health specialist at the George Institute for Global Health, Delhi.

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For the second consecutive day, the number of active cases for the country remained below 9 lakh on Saturday even though the total number of cases crossed the 70-lakh mark. But the health ministry officials remain tense on the impact of the month-long festivity on the pandemic.

"Several months of restrictions have created laxity among the public and even an element of rebellious attitude amongst the youngsters," said Abdul Ghafur, a consultant in infectious diseases, Apollo Hospital, Chennai. "Covid-19 will be with us for a very long time and the only way to survive the pandemic is to learn to live with the virus. If the public defaults in adopting the essential safeguards, the numbers will increase at an alarming level."