Kerala

Do not lower guard yet, warn health experts

Kerala’s COVID-19 curve might be on an extended plateau but the State’s active case pool has been rising slowly in three weeks. The test positivity has stayed between 9-11% in the past three months.

Though the new relaxations in public life and the arrival of vaccines seem to have given rise to a feeling that the pandemic is on its way out, the situation in many hospitals tells a different story.

“The COVID patient numbers might have stabilised in our ICUs but we now see patients who are a lot sicker and their hospital stays are prolonged. Yet people are refusing to test,” says A. Rajalekshmi, senior consultant, Infectious Diseases, KIMS hospital.

“Earlier, we advised home care and isolation only for Category A patients. Now, even COVID patients with co-morbidities are remaining home, turning up at hospitals when their symptoms worsen.

The number of people brought dead to hospitals and who turn out to be COVID positive has gone up,” says Suma T.K., Professor, Internal Medicine, Alappuzha Government Medical College.

Doctors and health workers say people no longer fear COVID and have been taking the protocols lightly. Almost an year into the pandemic, field-level activities linked to COVID management, including the vigorous contact tracing and testing and consistent follow-up of COVID patients on home isolation has slackened.

If COVID patients now come into hospitals sicker, it points to the failure of the health system to follow up those on home isolation and ensure that they reach hospitals on time.

Focus shifts to polls

The public perception that the pandemic is nearly over is fuelled by the fact that the political attention has diverted from COVID to upcoming Assembly elections.

The lack of political interest and support has impacted field-level activities, health workers say.

The biggest challenge faced by Health officials is the stiff resistance shown by people to testing.

“We test about 1,500 persons daily but our efforts to double the figure are thwarted by lack of public cooperation. People fear stigma and disruption of their normal life,” says a health official from Kasaragod.

The best bet still

“ICU occupancy is a reliable indicator of the extent of the pandemic and our COVID-19 ICUs are slowly filling up. Kerala’s TPR indicates that the pandemic is very much around. But indoor and outdoor events are happening everywhere and schools are opening up. Vaccines cannot reduce the spread of the pandemic anytime soon because it cannot prevent asymptomatic infections or spread. Our best bet would still be masking and physical distancing,” says Rajeev Jayadevan, a clinician.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 3:20:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/do-not-lower-guard-yet-warn-health-experts/article33603727.ece

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