In January 2020, the first case of coronavirus in India was confirmed in the southern state of Kerala. As the number of infections began to rise, the administration swung into action and took measures in the ensuing months, and soon the state was seen as a successful model in the country for combating the outbreak.
A year later, however, with India recording steep declines in cases in most parts of the country, the state continues to report a large number of infections.
On Wednesday morning, the Health Ministry said that nearly 42,000 cases were reported in India in the last 24 hours. Interestingly, on Tuesday, 30,203 cases were reported from Kerala alone.
Health experts in India cite multiple reasons why the picturesque state has failed to bring cases down as opposed to other states.
"There are multiple factors coinciding, including a large number of susceptible people, the festival season, and the environment as well. In indoor areas, I think ideal environmental conditions may be facilitating more efficient droplet spread of the virus," Rajeev Jayadevan, a public health expert and scientific adviser at the Indian Medical Association's Kerala chapter, told Anadolu Agency.
He said the disease never affects a geographical region in a uniform pattern.
"We have seen that some countries did well last year in curbing the spread of the virus, but the same problem is coming again. Examples are Vietnam and Australia. If we look at the current surge in the US, the warmest and humid states like Louisiana and Florida had a severe disease burden first," he said.
As of Aug. 28, health records show that Kerala, with a population of 33.3 million, had administered nearly 28 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
Jayadevan believes there could be some unknown contributing factors as well because not all factors are known about many "infectious agents."
"The state government in Kerala has not allowed COVID-19 to spread like an inferno. It has managed to keep the virus in a slow burn mode so far," he added.
Indian epidemiologist Lalit Kant told Anadolu Agency that although Kerala took good measures to control the virus at the beginning, there is a large population likely to catch the coronavirus.
"Not many people got exposed to the virus and a large susceptible population remains still there," Kant said. "So we continue to see cases of people getting infected."
He said the Delta variant of the virus may be playing a role as well behind the continued case rise.
"We are seeing the variant almost everywhere in the country. The spike in Kerala could be because of that as well," he said.
Last week, Indian Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla called a meeting to review the steps taken by Kerala and Maharashtra for checking the spread of the coronavirus.
An official release said that the senior officer "observed that more efforts would be required to arrest the increase in infections."
"The state governments should explore the possibility of placing night curfews in areas of high positivity," the release said.
The state government has now reinstated night curfews and weekend lockdowns to curb the cases.
- Experts urge for more steps against rising cases
Experts said that more steps are needed to tackle the rise in COVID-19 cases.
"Maximize speed and coverage of vaccination, restrict crowding and non-essential human social contacts, strictly adhere to COVID-appropriate behavior and do not lose cool and make mistakes," said virologist John Jacob.
He also said that there should be a clear conveying of correct information to the public about the pandemic.
Jacob maintains that Kerala's COVID-19 data is the most reliable compared to other states.
"That has yet to be appreciated by those who attribute the present heavy infection load to some fault," he told Anadolu Agency.
Meanwhile, Jayadevan said that while healthcare systems are working smoothly at the present rate, the government needs to be vigilant and prepared "to take drastic steps if necessary to curb the spread should the numbers get out of hand."
"The usage of healthcare resources has to be monitored closely so that the government should be able to act quickly if the caseload increases," he said.