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Kerala’s COVID Cases Are Rising, But May Not Indicate Third Wave

Kerala’s COVID Cases Are Rising, But May Not Indicate Third Wave

Representative image of a medics administering a swab test for COVID-19. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Though Kerala’s average new daily COVID-19 cases have risen over the past two weeks, this should not be considered as the beginning of a possible third wave – which some experts predicted may begin in August – as the cases are increasing at a slow pace and are not surging, according to an IndiaSpend report.

The report said that in the two weeks preceding July 11, average daily new COVID-19 cases in Kerala have increased by 15.2%. In contrast, during the second wave in April, the average daily cases rose exponentially by 472%. Over the past two weeks, daily cases have risen from 11,357 to 13,086.

On Wednesday, Kerala reported that its active caseload rose by 4,084 new cases of COVID-19, taking the total to 1,15,662. It was the only country across the country to report a four digit increase in active COVID-19 cases.

However, experts told IndiaSpend that this rise in cases could be because of the relaxation of lockdown restrictions and other factors.

“[W]ith the Delta [variant dominating], the numbers should be shooting up, not stabilising,” Rajeev Sadanandan, former Kerala additional chief secretary (health) told the news portal.

Another possibility is that because previous serosurveys had shown that the average number of people who have COVID-19 antibodies in Kerala is only half of the national average, there are many “hitherto uninfected pockets”. People may be getting infected here and sustaining the high numbers, Gautam Meon, professor of physics and biology at Ashoka University told IndiaSpend.

These experts said that while Kerala’s better case management is negating the greater transmissibility of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, the state should still be cautious as the virus’s R0 number – how many people can be infected by a single patient – is greater than 1, meaning more than one person is being infected.

More than 10% of tests in the state are also returning positive. According to IndiaSpend, the test positivity ratio (TPR) should be below 5%. The state’s TPR fell from 24% in May 2021 to 12% in June, but has stayed at just over 10% since June 20.

“When numbers start going up, people change their behaviour, and after a lag, the numbers start going down. When the numbers start falling, and people start dropping their guard, the numbers go up again. So talk of a third wave in Kerala is meaningless. The troughs and the crests are small, it is a slow burn,” Sadanandan told IndiaSpend.

The high number of cases in Kerala, when compared to the rest of the country, could also be due to its higher rate of testing. IndiaSpend said that Kerala’s testing is almost double the countrywide average, meaning it is missing fewer cases than in other places.

To control the rise in cases, the Kerala government has announced a complete lockdown on this weekend (July 17 and 18). The order also said that the present categorisation of local self-government institutions according to the seven-day test positivity rate will continue, meaning restrictions may continue for longer than was expected earlier.

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