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In 6 charts: The good and bad of Kerala’s Covid situation

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(This story originally appeared in on Jul 15, 2021)

NEW DELHI: Since the early days of the Covid pandemic, Kerala’s numbers have generally been out of sync with the national trend. Presently, Kerala is among the leading states in terms of vaccination coverage and testing. However, it is also the primary reason behind India’s prolonged second wave due to a high daily caseload.

Here’s a deep look into Kerala’s Covid stats and how they differ from the national figures …


Cases down in India, up in Kerala


Kerala logged over 15,637 fresh cases on Wednesday — its highest single-day rise in over a month. This, even as the national numbers are on a steady decline owing to a dip in new infections in most states.

When infections started declining rapidly all across the country, Kerala was the only state to consistently report over 10,000 daily cases.

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In fact, since first crossing 10,000 cases on April 16, the daily infections in Kerala have dipped below the five-figure mark just six times.

The graph above shows a clear distinction between India’s A-shaped recovery and Kerala’s prolonged second wave. Even neighbouring Karnataka and Tamil Nadu — two other hard states during the second wave — are showing a consistent decline in cases.

The same was the case in January this year when India’s Covid numbers were on a continuous decline while Kerala was reporting a high number of fresh infections.

Moreover, Kerala’s contribution to India’s caseload has risen significantly with most other states (save Maharashtra and northeast region) now returning to pre-second wave numbers.

From making up just over 9% of the total cases during the second wave peak in early May, Kerala now accounts for nearly 33% of infections reported in the last seven days.

Many districts leading surge


A granular-level analysis of Covid numbers reveals why Kerala is reporting a high number of cases.

A majority of the 14 districts in the southern state have witnessed a marginal to steep rise in daily cases over the last one month. The overall test positivity rate in the state stands at 10.3% as of July 15. Also, this is dangerously high as the World Health Organization recommends TPR of 5% of less for safe reopening of activities.

The district-level data also shows that the vaccination coverage, albeit higher than most districts, needs to increase to bring about a decline in daily cases.

Nearly 20% of the population in Pathanamthitta has been fully vaccinated against Covid. Yet, the daily infection rate has remained more or less the same in the last few weeks. In Wayanad too, where 15% of the population is now fully vaccinated, the numbers are steadily rising.

Having said that, Kerala’s overall vaccination coverage is better than most other badly-hit states such as Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

According to data as of July 14, Kerala has fully vaccinated over 12% of its population. At the national level, just 5.5% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated.

Not just vaccinations, Kerala also leads when it comes to testing people.

Among the five worst-hit states in India, Kerala’s testing rate is the highest at over 7 lakh tests per million population. Out of the 10 states with most Covid cases, Delhi is the only other state which has a higher testing figure at 1.13 million tests per million population.

In contrast, worst-hit Maharashtra has conducted just 3.6 million tests per million people.

Low death rate but figures sketchy


Another variable where Kerala stands out is its low fatality rate.

Just 0.5% of the total people who contracted the virus died from the infection. Nationally, the case fatality rate (CFR) is 1.3%.

But the authenticity of these figures is uncertain as of now.

TOI had reported that over 6,000 Covid deaths certified by the doctors were missing from the official data, pointing to discrepancy between registered Covid deaths and declared Covid deaths.

It means that if we add the undeclared figures to the toll, Kerala’s May CFR would rise to nearly 1.1% from the present 0.36%.

Moreover, TOI also reported that Kerala has lately been adding Covid deaths that occurred almost two months ago to its daily figures in July. Another pointer that there may be a mismatch between Kerala’s “actual” death toll during the second wave and what was actually reported.

Despite this, the state’s Covid preparedness during the second wave was visibly better than other severely-impacted states. Kerala did not witness a crippling healthcare crisis when cases peaked in May and was able to ensure adequate supply of oxygen and availability of beds during this period.

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