NEW DELHI: Kerala has been reporting over 22,000 new Covid infections for the last three days now. No other state in India is even close to the 10,000-mark.
The Covid conundrum in the southern state has led to several questions, with no certain answers.
Some attribute the numbers to high testing. But Delhi’s testing is also fairly high. The state government said it could be due to easing of curbs. But restrictions have been lifted in almost every other state.
Moreover, there is no evidence of any fast-spreading variant in the state either.
So what could be behind the steep surge in infections?
One possible answer could be found in the results of the 4th sero study released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) earlier this month.
According to the survey, over 2/3rd of the population in 11 states have antibodies against Covid. However in Kerala, the sero-prevalence is among the lowest at just 44.4%.
In other words, more than half the population in the state is still vulnerable to the virus.
While the results of the sero study cannot be directly linked to the rising cases, a cursory glance shows that states where the sero-positivity is higher are reporting lower numbers.
Among the five worst-hit states, Kerala’s southern neighbours are all reporting a declining trend in cases.
Maharashtra has been witnessing a flattening trend as the numbers aren’t falling as quickly as they are in other states. The seropositivity in the state (58%) is also not that high compared to some other states.
More Tests, More Vaccination, Fewer Deaths
Despite its burgeoning numbers, Kerala ticks several boxes when it comes to tackling the pandemic.
Take Covid testing for instance.
Kerala’s tests per million population is among the highest compared to the other hard-hit states. Only Delhi has a higher tests per million ratio of over 1.2 million.
The state government has cited high testing as a reason for its heavy numbers. But Kerala’s test positivity rate (TPR) — number of Covid positive tests out of total samples tested — is also fairly high at over 10%.
None of the other states has a TPR that high. This indicates that the infection is fairly spread out in the state.
Fortunately for Kerala, rising infections have not led to a corresponding surge in deaths. While there has been an uptick in recent deaths due to the ongoing surge, the overall fatality rate in the state remains low.
In fact, Kerala’s case fatality rate (CFR) of 0.5% is the lowest among the worst-hit states. This means that out of every 200 people who got infected with Covid, only one succumbed to the pathogen.
However, the figures could be disputed as several states apparently underreported their fatalities during the second wave of the virus. But going strictly by official data, Kerala seems to be doing well in keeping its fatalities in control.
Vaccination coverage is another area where Kerala is leading most other states.
Over 37% of the population has received at least one dose while 16% is fully vaccinated against Covid.
The state’s current vaccine uptake is faster than every other state with a population of 1 crore or more.
But since there’s still a long way to go to inoculate all adults, it remains to be seen how Kerala manages to ensure a healthy pace of vaccination, and whether or not that would ultimately lead to reduction in infections.