Coronavirus | Onam led to Kerala COVID-19 spike, says Harsh Vardhan

 thehindu.com  10/18/2020 16:32:33  2

Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan during the Sunday Samvaad in New Delhi on October 18, 2020. Twitter/@drharshvardhan  

Kerala is seeing a spurt in cases due to gross negligence during Onam celebrations, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan during his weekly online interaction, Sunday Samvaad.

In response to a question on how had Kerala, once portrayed as a model state for keeping the virus in check, has now posted over 8,000 cases and what could other States learn, Mr. Vardhan replied, Movement of people due to trade and tourism led to cases increasing beyond the two districts of Kasargod and Kannur. The epidemic curve of Kerala changed completely due to Onam festivities across the State during August and September. During August 22-Sept 2 (Onam week) there were huge congregations where people convened in large numbers and didn't take precautions. Kerala paid the price for its gross negligence after good control in the initial part of the pandemic. Other States must learn a lesson due to Kerala's negligence during Onam and States need to be careful during the coming festival season.

— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) October 18, 2020

Though there was a surge in cases since September, data shows that the State's second wave, one which hasn't yet seen a peak, had begun in early May. The second wave was attributable to the return of migrant workers from other States and returnees from abroad. Nearly 10.61 lakh people had entered the State through various routes, since the pandemic began of which half entered via flights alone.

Until June, 90% of cases were imported and by July this had reversed to 90% of cases being locally transmitted.

The share of cases from Kerala in India's overall load jumped from 2.9% until September 15 to 6.4% in the second half of the month to about 10% as of this month. Kerala also didn't increase testing to keep up with the population surge and also slackened on its contact tracing efforts that had helped it to contain significant spread until May. There were as of Sunday nearly 3.3 lakh cases in Kerala of which 96,000 are active infections, the Minister said.

Responding to another question on the market being flooded with oximeters made in China, Mr. Vardhan observed that consumers should look for FDA/CE approved products with ISO/ IEC specifications. However, he pointed out that a dip in oxygen saturation level was not always a COVID-19 symptom, and it could happen due to other underlying medical conditions as well.

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