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Kerala lags in measures to control Covid spread despite experts' advise

Thiruvananthapuram: Even as a high-level meeting convened by Kerala health minister Veena George on Tuesday to review the Covid-19 situation came out with an advisory that masks need to be worn only at hospitals and by high-risk groups, public health experts, including those associated with the state government, are suggesting use of masks by all at public placesas a precaution owing to several high risk factors of Covid-19 spread in Kerala.

As per data from Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, of the 1,970 Covid active cases in the country as on Tuesday, 1,749 are in Kerala, which comes to 89 percent. As many as 115 fresh cases were detected in the state on Monday. A new variant, JN.1, was also confirmed in Kerala.

The state health minister Veena George states that there is only a ‘slight’ increase in Covid cases in Kerala and there is no need for concern. Hospital staff, those visiting hospitals, those with other serious ailments and pregnant ladies should wear masks, she said in a statement after the high-level meeting.

The meeting also decided to conduct Covid tests only on symptomatic patients, which seems to be an effort to keep the number of positive cases low, sources point out.

The health minister also informed that adequate hospital beds have been kept ready in the state. There as 1,957 oxygen beds, 2,454 ICU beds and 937 ICU ventilators. An online mock drill involving 1192 government and private hospitals was also done during December 13 to 16, the minister said.

Public health experts are citing the higher population density, high number of elderly person, ongoing Sabarimala pilgrimage, upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays and even many political gatherings including the ongoing mass outreach programme of the state government as well as agitations as high risk factors for Covid’s spread in Kerala, especially since the newly detected variant JN.1 is a fast-growing one.

Public health expert B Ekbal, who is also the chairperson of Covid Expert Committee of Kerala government, had suggested in a social media post on Tuesday that all may wear masks at public places like hospitals and railway stations.

“Even as the virulence of the new variant may be comparatively low, around 20 per cent of persons may develop post Covid diseases. Hence, all sections of people may preferably wear masks at all public places, especially closed places,” Ekbal said.

He was also learnt to have given the suggestion to the state government.

Public health expert and WHO’s former technical officer Dr. S S Lal also pointed out that the basic precaution to be taken at the initial stage itself would be wearing masks.

The opposition Congress has been alleging that the CPM government in Kerala was trying to downplay the Covid situation in the state as the government’s state-wide mass outreach programme ‘Nava Kerala Sadas’ is progressing and is scheduled to end in Thiruvananthapuram by December 23 only.

(Published 19 December 2023, 13:36 IST)

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