Back to basics: Kerala’s Covid-19 curve springs another surprise

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The story of Kerala’s Covid-19 fight is like a Hollywood thriller. It started with a big bang and the crowd went on clapping at every scene, making the producers feel they did the right thing and were on track for a dozen Oscars. Then came the ups and downs like a raft down the turbulent river. There was confusion all around and one could feel fear rearing its ugly head from every corner. When active cases climbed to record highs in the backdrop of other states showing a steady decline, the Kerala Covid-19 story was again in the news — and this time it was for the wrong reasons.

In a moment, bouquets gave way to brickbats with the national and international media pronouncing it as a failed model. There were comparisons with states like UP and Bihar and reports made fun of everything happening in Kerala. Even chief ministers from other states started joking about such a bad example. The entire team behind the Covid-19 fight probably saw their lows during this period.

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Unjustified attacks on the Kerala Model against Covid-19

On a neutral perspective, I couldn’t find anything wrong with the Kerala model. The hospitals were never crowded, the cases were getting proper treatment, mortality rate was quite low and quarantine measures were reasonable, given the frustration of people under long-term restrictions. Even the post-Covid-19 clinics were doing well, picking up thousands of patients with long-term sequelae and putting them under proper care.

Despite their resentments, the public cooperated and that led to a steady boat cruising well to safety. In the end, Kerala’s strong public health infrastructure and resilient health workers managed to bring the Covid-19 situation under control.

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Covid-19: Strong public health system matters

The scene has changed rapidly like the climax of a suspense movie. While the entire country is struggling to contain the second wave of Covid-19, the people of Kerala are slowly walking back to normalcy. Vaccination drive is going on well and the smiles are back on our elderly population who were locked inside their homes with the constant fear of death ringing in their minds.

There is a saying that you should never laugh at the first one falling and bleeding in a game. That one person would be the first one to learn from the fall and reach the destination earlier than those who exhausted themselves laughing.

Towards herd immunity against Covid-19

Kerala probably will be the first state to reach herd immunity against Covid-19 in the country, given the density of natural infection and the excellent coverage of vaccination drive. As of now, Kerala has more than 1.09 million cases and the majority (1.05 million, 96.7%) have recovered. The official mortality is stated at 4381 (0.4%).

Active cases are declining steadily and stands at just 30,000 (2.8%) as of now. India is on its second wave and stands at 2,12,000 active cases as of today. This is the biggest number for this metric in 2021 and it seems more is in store for the country right now.

Kerala have already vaccinated 12,73,856 people (3.67% of the population) as of now. This is more than double the national average of 1.69% for overall vaccine coverage in the country. India has just 0.4% of its population under full vaccination coverage right now (two doses). For Kerala, the figure is 0.75%.

Life is nothing but a constant dose of hard work and a little bit of luck to garnish. The people of Kerala have illustrated this with their fight against the bug. Well done Kerala. Nobody will poke fun at you for a failure anymore. Just keep up the good work and save more lives and smiles.

(Dr Manu Raj is a paediatrician, clinical researcher and research methodologist based in Kochi. Views are personal.)