Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala health minister K K Shailaja, who has received several awards and honours in recognition of the state’s unique model in fighting Covid-19 in its early phases, now has the embarrassment of seeing a central team visiting the state to study what went wrong for the state to now report the country’s highest number of daily cases.
According to the assessment by the Union health ministry, Kerala’s Covid defence has gone completely awry. The state, which was number one in the control of the virus earlier, today accounts for the largest number of Covid patients in the country. Similarly, the test positivity rate is six times higher than the national average.
The spike in the infection rate, which began with Onam celebrations, has increased 10 times at the end of the local body elections. Maharashtra was the only state that was ahead of Kerala, but now even that order has been reversed. Along with Kerala, a central team is also visiting Maharashtra.
The central team had visited Kerala twice before, but on both occasions the situation was not as bad as it is today. The Union health ministry is learnt to favour more restrictions in the state, which has seen a serious let-up in implementing the Covid protocol.
What probably led to the state’s Covid defence going for a toss is its over-dependence on Antigen tests in preference to the RT-PCR test, which is more costly but more scientific. Experts have been warning that the Antigen test results are often incorrect and misleading, further leading to the spread of infection.
Union minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan has, in fact, alleged that the state chief minister and the health minister are misleading people by claiming that the government is doing everything right. He demanded that both apologise to the people of the state for the worsening situation.
Consistency has been a major problem with Kerala’s Covid defence campaign. The other day, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had refused to hand over film awards in person, preferring to keep the trophies on the table and calling the awardees by turn to pick them up. The incident even attracted criticism from certain quarters.
At the same time, a number of other government functions are being organised in scant respect for Covid protocols. For instance, an adalat of ministers saw thousands of people in attendance, without following the social distancing norms, many of participants not even wearing masks properly.
Although participation was supposed to be restricted to pre-registered people, a large crowd turned out, with local leaders and people’s representatives turning up with large number of followers.
Similarly, the Kerala tour of opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala has seen people crowding around his vehicle, flouting all norms of social distancing and other protocols. In fact, minister A K Balan has described Chennithala’s tour as a super-spreader, saying that by the time his tour reaches the state capital, the whole state would have become a red zone.