A central team that visited eight districts of Kerala has said that the state may witness around 4.6 lakh cases of coronavirus from August 1 to August 20. The six-member team of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was sent to Kerala by the Centre to take stock of the pandemic situation in the state.
At a press conference on Tuesday, NCDC director Dr Sujeet Singh, who headed the central team, said that the unlocking of activities, approaching of the Onam festival (August 20) and reopening of tourism in Kerala pose challenging scenarios and are a cause of concern.
Besides the NCDC director, the team comprised Dr P Ravindran, former DDG, Dr SK Jain, Advisor (PH), NCDC, Dr K Regu, Additional Director, Kozhikode Branch, NCDC, Dr Pranay Verma, Joint Director, NCDC, and Dr Ruchi Jain, Public Health Specialist, regional office of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Thiruvananthapuram.
The central team visited Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Alappuzha, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, and Thiruvananthapuram districts in Kerala.
Here are the top findings of the central team:
HIGH NUMBER OF REINFECTIONS
Dr Surjeet Singh said the southern state has recorded a high number of reinfections even after two doses of the vaccine being administered, adding that the issue is being probed.
For example, 14,974 people got infected with the virus after receiving the first dose, and 5,042 after being administered both doses of the vaccine in Pathanamthitta (according to information shared by the district), he said.
According to the report submitted by the team, the Covid-19 positivity rate was found to be more than 10 per cent in all the eight districts and at some places, it was found to be increasing. Over 80 per cent of the cases were of the Delta variant of Covid-19.
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LOW CONTACT TRACING, HIGH R VALUE
“Contact-tracing was found to be abysmally low — 1:1.2 to 1:1.7 — and the Rt value, which was the lowest (0.8) on June 1, is continuously rising with a current Rt value of 1.2,” Dr Surjeet Singh said.
The R-value indicates the speed at which Covid-19 infection is spreading in the state.
“The current Rt value of Kerala is 1.12. Going by the current trend, it is expected that for the period of August 1 to August 20, the state may witness around 4.62 lakh Covid cases,” Singh said.
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The test positivity rate (TPR) was found to be ranging from 10 to 14 per cent and in some areas, it was 15 to 20 per cent. The TPR in Malappuram and Pathanamthitta was showing a rising trend.
ON CONTAINMENT ZONES
Dr Surjeet Singh said that the team found that containment zones (CZs) in the districts were not made according to the Centre’s guidelines. He pointed out that the perimeter control and cordoning off of the CZs were not strict, and that there were no buffer zones surrounding the CZs.
BED OCCUPANCY RATE
As far as the health infrastructure for Covid care is concerned, Dr Surjeet Singh said the bed occupancy rate in the southern districts was found to be in the range of 40 to 60 per cent and in the northern districts, it was around 70 to 90 per cent.
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The bed occupancy rate for ICU and ventilator was quite high at 74 to 85 per cent in the most-affected Malappuram district, he added.
Dr Surjeet Singh said that the bed occupancy rate was higher in the private sector and according to the available data for May, June and July, 25-30 per cent deaths occurred within 72 hours of hospitalization.
ON HOME ISOLATION
The central team observed that up to 80 per cent Covid-19 cases were permitted to be in home isolation, but the guidelines for home isolation were not followed.
“The absence of compliance to home isolation of suspects or cases and quarantine of contacts resulted in the inability to contain the infection. Intra-house transmission was high, often leading to clusters,” Singh said.
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The central team noted that the containment strategy relied on passive surveillance and pre-structured containment zone boundaries i.e. panchayats and the enforcement of guidelines regarding the number of people attending social and religious gatherings was lacking.
Dr Surjeet Singh further said the prevalence of NCDs is almost 30 per cent and the sero prevalence is 44 per cent, which means 55 per cent of the state’s population is still susceptible. There is a gap of around 20 per cent between Kerala (44 per cent) and the rest of the country (65 to 70 per cent).
There is a high proportion of elderly people in Kerala’s population due to high life expectancy, which is contributing to the susceptible pool. Besides, there is substantial national and international migration.
COVID-19 CASES IN KERALA
According to the data released by Centre on Tuesday morning, Kerala accounted for more than half of the Covid-19 cases recorded in the country over the past seven days.
Meanwhile, Kerala reported 21,119 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, taking active case tally in the state to 1,71,985. The state registered 152 fatalities in the past 24 hours.
A total of 18,493 people have recovered from the virus in the same time period.
Test positivity rate stands at 15.91 per cent in Kerala.
(With inputs from PTI)
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