KOCHI: A COVID spread that claims around 100 lives a day, extreme heavy rainfall that is posing a threat of flood and chances of monsoon diseases. It is an unusual situation and Kerala is facing myriad challenges these days.
The heavy rain that has been lashing the state for the past two days has triggered fears of a flood and hundreds have taken shelter at relief camps as low-lying areas have been inundated.
Huge tidal waves rising to more than one-metre height have been lashing the shores forcing the coastal populace to shift to safer places.The water level in rivers is rising and there is a chance of flooding in coastal areas as the flood water is not draining into the sea due to the storm surge.
Though the major dams have reached only 30 per cent of their storage capacity, the situation may change if the rain continues unabated in the high ranges for more than three days.
Kerala reported only 57 fresh cases of COVID and had a caseload of 1,326 during the onset of monsoon on June 1, 2020. A year on, the situation is totally different, with around 40,000 new cases adding a day and the test positivity rate standing close to 30 per cent.
If the relief camps get crowded, it will be a daunting task for the COVID frontline warriors to stop the pandemic spread. The healthcare sector has been stretched beyond limits and if steps are not taken to curb an outbreak of monsoon diseases, the situation can be challenging.
"It is a tricky situation. The health department has been exhausted due to the COVID fight and there is a need to recruit more doctors and nurses to fight the monsoon diseases. The dengue fever shows a four-five-year cycle and the chances of an outbreak is very high," said Kerala Government Medical Officers Association president Dr GS Vijayakrishnan.
"As the frontline workers are deployed on COVID duty, social workers, NGOs and political parties should come forward to launch the pre-monsoon cleaning drive. We should voluntarily observe dry days every week," he added.
However, Kerala COVID Expert Committee chairman Dr B Iqbal says there is no need to panic as there is a silver lining. "We expect a gradual decline in Covid cases. The effects of the lockdown will be visible from next week. And we are not much concerned about vector-borne diseases as there has been a decline due to the Covid restrictions. As the people are wearing masks and observing social distancing, we don't expect an outbreak of monsoon diseases. Besides, there has been a drop in pollution levels also," he said.
Dr Iqbal said that Kerala will be concentrating on giving the first dose of Covid vaccine to the maximum number of people as recent studies have revealed that the first dose itself provide immunity. "The second dose can be taken after four months," he said.
"Due to the lockdown, there has been a drop in the number of fresh cases and the discharge rate has also increased. Steps will be taken to curb chances of COVID spread in relief camps. The local bodies and volunteers will be actively involved in pre-monsoon cleaning and relief activities in the coming days," he said.
Kerala State Disaster Management Authority member secretary Sekhar L Kuriakose also maintained that managing the monsoon diseases will not be a challenge.
"The government has identified an adequate number of assets to meet any situation. The shortage of staff in the health department has been managed by recruiting more people. There has been a drop in lifestyle diseases due to the COVID protocol. The KSDMA has given instructions to follow the Orange Book guidelines to curb spread of COVID at flood relief camps," he said.