Explained: Kerala’s rising COVID cases a worry for India, sparks fear of third wave

Kerala: On Saturday (August 28), India reported 46,759 new COVID-19 cases (24 hours figure), taking the country’s tally to 3,26,49,947, informed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. And Kerala continued to report a record number of cases and logged 32,801 fresh infections and 179 deaths.

According to the Union ministry of health and family welfare, Kerala now accounts for more than half of all the active COVID-19 cases in the country, followed closely by Maharashtra.

Festivals – a source of concern

Today’s (August 28) India figures show the highest single-day increase in nearly two months and this is a clear indication of the fact that COVID cases are spiking in the country, mainly driven by surges in specific states.

While the centre asked Maharashtra to place curbs ahead of Dahi Handi celebrations and Ganesh Chaturthi, it seems Onam festvities are a main cause behind Kerala’s unprecedented growth in last few days. Many people defied social distancing norms and gathered in huge numbers to celebrate Onam, thus leading to growing COVID cases.

The Delta variant makes up for most of the cases

CSIR’s Institute of Gemomics and Integrative Biology surveys show that 95% of the samples tested are of the Delta variant. Studies have already shown the Delta variant to be much more infectious and transmissible than the original Alpha variant.
The Delta variant also increases chances of hospitalisation and can be fatal too. On August 25, of 605 deaths reported in India, Kerala 215 deaths. Maharashtra had one more – 216. Today (August 28),¬†India’s 509 new fatalities include 179 from Kerala and 170 from Maharashtra.

More testing in Kerala

Some also point out the fact that the southern state conducts far more tests than the rest of the country for COVID, which can be one reason – though not the only reason – for reporting more cases. Kerala tests on an average 4,000 cases for COVID daily, while the figure for India stands at 1,300 on an average. Kerala’s testing strategy has also been found effective – studies show Kerala is able to identify one in every six COVID cases, while if we consider the whole of India, the figure stands at 1 in 33.

ICMR’s latest survey shows that India’s seroprevalence is 67.6% while Kerala’s is 42.7%. This means more people in Kerala are still vulnerable to the virus – either they are not fully vaccinated or have never been exposed to the virus before.

The worst affected districts

As on August 26, among districts, Ernakulam recorded the highest number with 4,048 cases, followed by Thrissur (3,865), Kozhikode (3,680), Malappuram (3,502), Palakkad (2,562), Kollam (2,479), Kottayam (2,050), Kannur (1,930) Alappuzha (1,874), Thiruvananthapuram (1,700), Idukki (1,166) Pathanamthitta (1,008) and Wayanad (962).

Fear of third wave

As Kerala continues to report high case load, experts fear that it can become the epicentre of the third wave, along with states like Maharashtra. The next two-three months have several festivals lined up – Dahi Handi celebrations, Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga Puja/Navaratri, Diwali – which have made experts worried about a spike in COVID cases.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan expressed concerns at the pace of rise in coronavirus cases and directed Kerala and other states to adopt a 5-fold strategy for controlling the sudden spurt in infections. Also, Centre asked Kerala and Maharashtra to consider night curfews in areas with high coronavirus case numbers as the country reported more than 40,000 new infections for three days in a row on Saturday (August 28).


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