Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday said lack of a dip in COVID-19 cases in the State when compared to other States was not a cause for concern or fear as things are under control. He said the endeavour of the State from the beginning was to protect as many people as possible from being infected or succumbing to the virus until the vaccine was available for all.
“Many are wondering as to why the number of patients in Kerala has not decreased. This comes as no surprise when examined in terms of public health principles. We can confidently say there is no need to be fearful and that things are under control,” he told reporters. He said the Delta variant which has a higher chance of spreading struck Kerala during the second wave of COVID-19 and that the number of people infected by it increased because of the huge population in the State.
“In addition, the disease spreads rapidly across the State due to the interconnectedness of rural and urban areas,” he said. Since people already infected by COVID and those who have been vaccinated have limited immunity against the Delta variant, it can lead to infection recurring in those infected in the past, he said.
“Many of those who are now positive fall into these categories. It is reassuring that they have no serious symptoms and no risk of death,” he said. He said the sero prevalence study of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) at the end of the first wave revealed the prevalence rate in Kerala was only about half (11.4) compared to other States (21.6).
“Therefore, the infections in the second wave were higher. Consequently, the number of tests have also increased,” he said. He further said the study found 70 to 80 per cent of people in many cities in country were infected.
The Chief Minister said though thenumber of infections are not going down, restrictions like lockdown cannot be continued indefinitely and things need to go back tonormal as soon as possible. That is why the restrictions are being eased or phased out.
However, the relaxations should not be misused or abused by people by not following COVID-appropriate behaviour like wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing, he said and added that overcrowding should be avoided. He further said the State has beenable to provide appropriate treatment to patients in hospitals and ICUs even when the number of cases was high and even then more than 60 -70 per cent of COVID hospital beds were never used.
“About 90 per cent of the total patients are being treated free of cost in government hospitals. This is an achievement no other State has achieved,” he said. He said there are 252 private hospitals affiliated with the government’s Karunya Health Care Scheme for providing treatment to the poor and vulnerable families and that the cost of treatment in other private hospitals has been controlled.
“The government and the private sector are working together to deal with the COVID situation,” he said. On reporting of deaths due to COVID, the Chief Minister said it was not something that could be done easily.
Again referring to ICMR studies, he said they show Kerala was better at reporting deaths than most other States. On the vaccinations in the State, the Chief Minister said 43 per cent of people in the above 18 years category have received the first dose and 12 per cent have received the second dose.
In terms of vaccination numbers, the State was ahead of the others, he said and added that the State was also ahead in non-wastage of the vaccine supplied by the Centre. “Vaccine distribution has now started through private hospitals as well. In addition to the COVISHIELD and COVAXIN vaccines, some hospitals are also offering the SPUTNIK vaccine.Other vaccines from Indian and American companies are expected to be available soon,” he said.
He said experts opine immunity can be achieved only if around 70 per cent of the people in the 18 years plus group are vaccinated. Since at least 60 per cent of people in that category have been infected without being vaccinated and have some immunity, he told reporters that steps would be taken to vaccinate another 15 per cent soon to achieve herd immunity.
Vaccination is recommended for pregnant and lactating mothers as per the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation as scientific studies have shown that COVID infection during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth. He said the State was trying to vaccinate 2.5-3 lakh people per day for which a campaign called ‘Vave’ (Vaccine Advancement for Vaccine Equality) was launched for the registration of marginalised people like those below the povertyline who do not know how to register or do not have the facilities for the same.
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