Kerala is reporting the highest number of Covid-19 cases, even as the country is witnessing a spurt in the viral disease once again.
As many as 3,065 people tested positive on Saturday, 15 April, one out of four cases reported in the country. Active cases in the state are 18,663.
It may be noted that Kerala stopped publishing the daily bulletin in April 2022. Hence, the exact number of hospitalisations and daily positivity rate cannot be ascertained.
According to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the test positivity rate (TPR) in all 14 districts of the state was more than 10 percent. Ernakulam had the highest rate — 38.53 — last week.
Incidentally, Kerala reported the country’s first Covid-19 case on 30 January, 2020, when a medical student from Wuhan, China, tested positive in the Thrissur district.
Why more cases in Kerala?
Experts opined that multiple factors, including population density, weather and the healthcare system, are keeping the Covid-19 figures on an uptick in Kerala.
Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, a member of the Indian Medical Assocation’s (IMA) Covid-19 committee in Kerala, said the pandemic is cyclical, and repeated outbreaks are possible.
“Japan has had eight waves so far. It is a small place. Also, Japan’s healthcare structure is systematic with well-established testing, documenting, reporting, and transparency,” he told South First.
“The systematic healthcare structure provides exact information on the situation in Japan. The same is the case with Kerala, and this surge is after six months. Earlier, we had seen a higher number of cases,” Dr Jayadevan said.
He added that Kerala has a well-established infrastructure. ASHA workers reach every nook and corner of the state and report the situation to the Public Health Centres (PHCs), which, in turn, report to higher authorities. It is a well-planned health management system.
“Also people are aware of diseases, and they willingly undergo tests as compared to their counterparts elsewhere in the country. The availability of affordable testing facilities, and willingness to undergo tests, coupled with systematic and targeted testing are happening in the state. Hence, we are seeing more cases,” Dr Jayadevan explained.
Weather as a factor
Kerala’s weather is also conducive for the spread of viruses.
“The Covid-19 virus spreads faster in low- and high-humidity conditions. Kerala is humid and also the population density is quite high. Humidity, along with the high population density, provide the virus with a suitable environment,” he said.
The state has 860 people per sq km, according to the 2011 census, which is double the national average.
Dr Jayadevan warned that Covid-19 cases are likely to increase further due to festivals, Easter, Vishu, and Eid, besides Labour Day on 1 May, when people mingle freely with each other.
Status of hospitalisation
Dr Jayadevan said there had been hospitalisation of Covid-19 patients reported over the past few months, but the state has now stated witnessing hospital admissions.
“The hospitalisations started as in-patients, who were already admitted in the hospital, started to test positive and had to remain there as they were now Covid-19 positive,” Dr Jayadevan said.
“Also, the people who already had certain conditions, or underlying co-morbidities, when they tested positive, they are getting hospitalised,” he said, adding that hospitalisations would not, however, be high even if there is a surge in cases.
“If five out of 100 people were hospitalised during the Delta wave, the figure will be only one out of 100 during this wave,” he opined.
Variant of concern
The XBB.1.16 variant of Omicron is responsible for the latest Covid-19 wave. Kerala has detected 42 cases of this variant so far.
“XBB.1.16 will penetrate deep into the community. It can reach more people,” Dr Jayadevan said.
The doctor ruled out the need for a fourth dose of the anti-Covid vaccine, but recommended pandemic-appropriate behaviour.
“The best precaution is to use a mask. There is no evidence supporting the need for a fourth dose. We have to wear masks without waiting for the authorities to issue an order. It should be our priority,” Dr Jayadevan said.
Cases in India
India recorded 10,753 fresh Covid-19 infections on Saturday.
The number of active cases increased to 53,720, the Union Health Ministry data revealed. The death toll climbed to 5,31,091, with 27 deaths.
Six deaths were recorded in Delhi, followed by four in Maharashtra, three in Rajasthan, and one each in Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
The figure also includes six deaths in Kerala.
The daily positivity rate was 6.78 percent while the weekly positivity rate was pegged at 4.49 percent.
Active cases now comprise 0.12 percent of the total infections. The national Covid-19 recovery rate has been recorded at 98.69 percent, the ministry said.