The Guardian

Indian state pays the price of early success

- Hannah Ellis-Petersen Delhi

As Covid-19 swept through India last year, there was one state that was always seen as standing out in its handling of the pandemic.

The “Kerala model” became a byword for success in containing the virus, named after a series of measures introduced early on by the south Indian state, including rigorous, focused testing, containmen­t, community support and contact tracing.

Yet as nationwide India’s Covid cases have fallen to record lows following the devastatin­g second wave in April, Kerala’s cases have consistent­ly remained high since mid-May. Last week, Kerala accounted for almost 70% of India’s new cases and the state’s positivity rate continues to hover around 17%. While there are signs that cases in Kerala are finally tailing off, questions have remained over why the state has remained a hub of the virus. Its persistenc­e has been partly attributed to the low seropreval­ence – lack of those with antibodies – thanks to earlier successes in preventing a spread of the virus. A seropreval­ence survey carried out in March found that Kerala only had seropreval­ence of around 11%, compared with more than 20% nationally. By the end of July, Kerala still had the lowest seropreval­ence figures in India with 44% of the population showing antibodies, meaning more than 50% remained vulnerable.

Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, a vicechairm­an of the Kerala State Indian Medical Associatio­n, said that Kerala’s trajectory of Covid had always differed from the rest of the country. “I would describe the situation here as a slow burn, rather than an inferno,” he said

He said it was inaccurate to characteri­se this as a failure of the Kerala model. Instead, he pointed to Kerala’s high population density as well as humid weather conditions and fatigue among health workers as other reasons.

Even with cases remaining high, the state has not faced the shortage of oxygen or ICU facilities of other states. “Our fatality rate shows our model is on the right track,” the Kerala health minister Veena George told Reuters last month.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom