Kerala currently accounts for about one-third of the daily growth in Covid-19 cases in the country and one-fourth of the active caseload. The state has the highest seven-day average TPR among big states and its infection graph is still rising at a time when the rest of the country seems to have overcome the second wave. The Kerala model of Covid management has surely unravelled since the initial pandemic days, when it was hailed as the best. Its sole defence of relatively lower death toll too has fallen since and even its 14,000-odd death figure is under suspicion due to evident signs of undercounting and fudging.
On May 12, Kerala reported its highest daily case tally at 43,529 and a record TPR of 29.7%, and on May 17, CM Pinarayi Vijayan cautiously declared the state may have crossed the peak. The fact that even nearly two months later, and despite the 40-day complete lockdown, the state is nowhere close to ending the wave is a clear indication that it may have botched its strategy. Experts have singled out the inconsistency and inadequacy in Kerala’s testing strategy as a reason for its failure to tame the contagion. It cut back on testing as soon as cases started to reduce after the peak, ignoring the wisdom of sticking to the effective 3T strategy of test, trace and treat. The lockdown too did not have the desired impact because other associated containment measures were not given enough attention. Even its post-unlock strategies like the odd-even rule for buses and restrictions on business hours at banks, shops and liquor outlets are leading to unnecessary crowding.
Given the failures, a thorough assessment of Kerala’s anti-Covid strategy is inevitable. It’s also time to evaluate if the expert panel is doing what’s required of it—reading the situation correctly and delivering timely and appropriate advice. It may be too early, and even unfair, to judge the performance of the new health minister, but the situation demands someone who would take charge of the battle at hand and deliver without losing time. The CM, who has boldly assumed the responsibility of briefing the public on a regular basis, must also show the resolve to enforce a course correction that Kerala desperately needs.