Post-poll, cases stay much below projected numbers

Mid-January projection of SDMA was 11,000 daily cases, which by current stats is unlikely

Notwithstanding projections which predicted a major surge in new cases of COVID-19 in the State after the local body polls, the case graph seems to have remained steady over the past two weeks.

“The graph of new cases did show a surge in the post-poll period but it reached nowhere near the projected figures. After the initial surge, the graph plateaued. The surge was not uniform across the State as cases went up primarily in Pathanamthitta, Kollam, Ernakulam and Kottayam districts,” a senior public health official says.

However, epidemiologists say that the surge may not be ‘visible,’ especially in northern districts like Malappuram and Kannur, where testing has been inadequate. Health officials say that people are now reluctant to undergo testing, because they do not want to go into quarantine. People also know that they can remain at home unless they developed serious disease .

Two weeks ago the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) came up with a post-poll projection that by mid-January, Kerala could report between 11,000-12,000 cases daily and that the active caseload could go up to 1.2 lakh cases. However, going by the reported cases over the two weeks, the case graph is unlikely to reach the projected numbers.

New cases, which had shown negative growth throughout November, suddenly showed an increase by 5.6% in the second week of December. Between December 7-13, the State had reported 32,938 cases. This went up to 36,539 cases during December 14 to 20. Cases dipped again between December 21-17 to register 34,647 cases.

Test positivity rate down

Though the cases were expected to spike, last week, the increase was just marginal, with 35,048 cases between December 28-January 3. The only districts where cases went up slightly last week are Pathanamthitta, Ernakulam, Alappuzha, Wayanad, Kottayam and Thiruvananthapuram. Pathanamthitta registered a spike in test positivity rate from 9.2 % to 11.6% last week, while Wayanad also had the TPR up from 10.3 to 12.3 last week. Overall, the State’s test positivity rate actually went down to 9.5% last week from 9.9% the week before.

Even so, epidemiologists are worried that the opening of schools, colleges and other public places, close on the heels of the Christmas and New Year celebrations, could change things drastically. The State should have watched the impact of school/college reopening on the epidemic curve first, before allowing the opening of theatres and other relaxations, they say.

Longer hospitalisation

“The weekly test positivity rate and number of new cases are just one metric. The real assessment would be in how much mortality we could reduce. But mortality figures have not gone down. We need data on how many people are reaching hospitals with serious disease and how many are newly going into hypoxia every day. Hospitals report that those who turn up with serious diseases are requiring longer hospitalisation of over 14 days now. If so, even a slight spike in cases can create huge capacity issues for hospitals,” a senior epidemiologist says.

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