Now that the Covid-19 contagion appears in control in the BJP-ruled states, especially Uttar Pradesh, there are no spine-chilling images of mass cremations — they wouldn’t dare show graveyards — or corpses floating on a river. One of the favourites of the mainstream media, the CPM-led LDF government in Kerala is struggling to contain the China-made virus while, in the rest of the country, the number of active cases and fatalities fell considerably for most of May and June, and the graph has now plateaued. Kerala added more than 20,000 active cases daily for five days of the last week, which was about half the country’s average, with a positivity rate more than six times the national rate of caseload. But for a bunch of paid editors, it was wrong of the BJP to have ascribed the spike to the relaxation of curbs during Eid, a fault the West Bengal government of Mamata Banerjee, another media favourite, was guilty of as well. On its part, the LDF government accuses the union government of Narendra Modi of not supplying it with enough vaccines, thus ‘explaining’ the rising caseload. Agreed, the situation in Kerala is perplexing, but a team of experts did leave New Delhi to study the situation in the state’s worst affected areas. Meanwhile, no media house insinuated that former Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja lost the portfolio to Veena George because of ‘incompetence’ the way they did when, at the union government level, the baton was passed on from Dr Harsh Vardhan to Mansukh Mandaviya. They are now busy making derisive comments about the Gujarati’s laboured use of the English language!
Whereas the nationwide serosurvey results suggest that less than 45% of the population of Kerala has been exposed to the Wuhan lab’s virus, which is substantially below the national average of 68%, the state government should have known how the biology of viral infections works. A majority of the state population have not developed antibodies against the more infectious mutants (particularly Delta Plus), which drove the second wave, owing to the low exposure. That is simple science. Taking advantage of the low fatality rate of 0.87%, the lowest among the states with the most dreadful situations last week, the Pinarayi Vijayan government should have worked on curbing the number of people an infected person can infect — known technically as R0 or “R naught” — shooting past the risky threshold of 1. It did not, resulting in Kerala losing about 100 people to Covid-19 on a daily basis over the past 10 days. The rotation of business holidays has not helped, as consumers in the state flocked to the limited shops and entire markets whenever they opened, affecting social distancing more severely than what would have happened in a business-as-usual scenario.
The serosurvey results have added a silver lining to the cloud, though. With Kerala having vaccinated people better than many other states, the health infrastructure must monitor whether the vaccinated are developing enough antibodies, which can protect them to a great extent from the second wave that seems to be waning in northern India. It is no Indian government’s fault that the vaccine availability is scarce, what with the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech producing vials on a war footing, aided by the import of Sputnik V while Pfizer continues to be dodgy in its negotiations with the country’s officials. Kerala can at best prioritise the worst spots. Further knowledge can be obtained from the central team of experts for strategising the inoculation drive.