Struggling to rein in COVID-19 numbers, Kerala seeks vaccine priority
Struggling to rein in COVID-19 numbers, Kerala seeks vaccine priority
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Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala, whose health minister K. K. Shailaja has won international acclaim for leading a model campaign against Covid-19 for most of the pandemic’s duration, is now struggling to contain the spread of the disease. The state now accounts for a fourth of all daily cases in the country.

While the rest of the country is heaving a sigh of relief over the announcement about the imminent launch of Covid vaccines, Kerala is faced with the prospect of a frightening increase in the spread of the disease.

The latest assessment by the health department forecasts that the number of the daily caseload is soon expected to hit 9,000 compared to around 5-6 thousand as of now. The projection is contained in a report submitted by the health secretary to the state government.

The reopening of schools and institutes of higher education, along with the protocol violations during the local body polls and the celebrations that followed, as well as the permission given to cinemas and other entertainment venues to resume operations, although in a restricted manner, are expected to further add to the infection rate.

The state is also facing the prospects of another phase of lowered caution when the campaign for the assembly elections is expected to be launched soon. Already electioneering for the April-May poll has started on a limited scale.

The report warns that the number of persons requiring hospitalisation might go up to one lakh, which would put strain on the state’s hospital capacities. It stresses the urgent need to increase the number of antigen tests to bring the infection rate under control.

The state government has already impressed upon the Centre for top priority in the allocation of vaccine to Kerala in view of the dangerous situation. The state has cited reasons for such consideration.

It pointed out that the state government had succeeded in its mission of ‘delaying the peak’ infection for the first eight months by containing the spread. But in the last two months, the situation has gone out of control. It wants this consideration to be given due weightage in the allocation of vaccine.

Another reason is the high level of co-morbidity in the state due to the prevalence of health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, all of which have dangerous implications for Covid patients. Every fifth person in the state is supposed to be a diabetic patient.

The state’s relatively higher population density also carries the risk of a faster spread of the infection. More importantly, the population in the priority category of 50-plus age group is higher in Kerala compared to all other states, given that the state’s birth rate has been on a declining trend due to heightened awareness about the smaller family.

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