Weekend Lockdown in Kerala: Why Are COVID Cases Still Rising?

Senior virologist Dr Jacob T John explained, “The Delta variant has shown, one person can infect six people.”

3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Why are COVID cases rising in Kerala?</p></div>

Amid a surge in daily COVID cases in Kerala, the state has announced a complete lockdown on the weekend (31 July-1 August) with the same guidelines that were issued last month, on 12-13 June.

On Wednesday, 28 July, Kerala recorded 22,056 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total number of cases to 33,27,301, with 131 more deaths.

Virologists across the country have appreciated Kerala for being one of the most ‘honest’ in terms of reporting.

This has also been corroborated by serosurveys as the latest national sero survey showed that for every infection that gets detected, about 25 go unreported.

However, in Kerala, it was found that only about five infections go unreported for every reported case.

Then, why are daily cases rising in the state? Why is the state topping the number of active cases in the country?


Seroprevalence in Kerala

In a sero survey conducted across 20 Indian states, while at least two-thirds of the population was found to have COVID-19 antibodies, Kerala was observed to have the least, indicated a higher uninfected population.

Madhya Pradesh was recorded to have the highest seroprevalence – 79 percent, while Kerala was observed to have 44.4 percent, making the current rise puzzling.

The seroprevalence estimates from the surveys assist the tracking of the extent of spread of infection in age groups and geographical locations (such as districts, rural/urban areas) over time as well as guide the containment response.

Professor Gautam Menon had written in May, Kerala continues to be hard hit, and is an enduring puzzle. It is at least encouraging that deaths there remain low.

Further, Menon told The Quint, "So, Kerala is a mystery. I feel that Kerala was more successful than other states in terms of controlling its cases and its numbers and in terms of controlling its infections. It shut down fairly stringently and it unlocked fairly rigorously. If you look at the sero surveys conducted in Kerala, it was found that about 10% of people had prior infection by 10th of January compared to numbers like 20% plus across all of India on average."

"So that suggests to me that overall fewer people on average are infected in Kerala. But on the other hand, there are more people to be infected and that’s a negative and I think that's what you’re seeing in the reluctance of the numbers to come down. There’s a background of infection but importantly those numbers are not large enough to cause a serious strain on the health system."
Professor Gautam Menon

Kerala’s daily COVID cases had started dropping in May and came close to 10,000 daily cases. However, by mid-July, the cases began to see a gradual rise, which has been attributed to the opening up of restrictions.

'One Person Can Infect Six People': Dr Jacob T John

In an earlier interview with The Quint, Senior virologist Dr Jacob T John explained, “The fast pace of infection is due to the Delta variant. The earlier Wuhan B614G variant showed how one infected person could infect two others. The Delta variant has showed, one person that infect six people.”

Kerala has so far given the first vaccine dose to approximately 38 percent of its population (1.33 crore).

Kerala, however, has been reporting a low mortality rate, which is being cited as evidence of the state’s efficient handling of the pandemic.

The state has a fatality ratio of 0.47, against the country average of 1.32, which can be partly attributed to the large number of cases.

(With inputs from IndiaSpend)

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