Kerala students covid ppe
Students in PPE kits appear for the Higher Secondary exam at St. Mary's Higher Secondary School in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday, April 26, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

Thiruvananthapuram: With adequate oxygen supplies and no run yet on hospital beds, Kerala has painted a distinctly different picture from some of India’s metro cities like New Delhi and Mumbai, but an acceleration in COVID-19 cases this week has triggered more caution in the state.

On Tuesday, for the first time, the number of daily fresh coronavirus cases topped 30,000, with 32,819 cases reported from the 14 districts in Kerala.

The new cases were in the 11,000-13,000 range last week. The test positivity in Kerala is 23.24 per cent, and the state now has 247,181 patients.

Ernakulam and Kozhikode are the two leading districts in the state with the highest active pool of patients, having 39,594 and 34,986 active patients respectively.

Pressure builds up

With the daily case load going up, there is increased pressure on hospital beds though there is no emergency situation as in several other states in India.

Kerala COVID-19 figures (April 27)
Cases - 1,427,545
Active - 232,812
Deaths - 5,138

“For the first time the daily cases topped the 30,000 mark on Tuesday. This is a significant number. The state government has already asked private hospitals to set aside 25 per cent of beds for treatment of COVID-19 patients. This number could be hiked in the coming days,” a state health department official told Gulf News.

Reflecting the increasing cases and concern, the state government had introduced a ‘semi-lockdown’ over the past weekend, to be continued in the coming weekend, too.

Kerala police check covid
Police personnel stop commuters during the weekend lockdown at Palayam in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday, April 24, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

Earlier discharge

As the numbers of fresh cases rise, the state government has also decided to discharge COVID-19 patients from hospitals without insisting that they test negative in a rapid antigen test. The earlier policy was to discharge a patient only after the patient tested negative in two consecutive RT-PCR tests between a fixed interval.

The state government’s decision to permit earlier discharge follows the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) revised guideline that permits patients with mild/moderate disease to be discharged after 10 days of symptom onset if there was no fever for three days, without a COVID test.

Kerala had not adopted this guideline earlier, but with a spike in patient numbers and faced with the likelihood of a run on hospital beds, the government has decided to adopt the ICMR guideline.

Vaccine plaints

Meanwhile, people have complained about the inability to make online registrations for vaccinations, with the website often showing ‘no appointment’.

Last week, there were several incidents of people crowding at vaccination centres and jostling with each other at spot registration centres. There were also incidents of people swooning and collapsing after waiting in serpentine queues at vaccination centres in Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam.

On Tuesday, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan admitted that the complaints regarding vaccination could not be resolved until the state had adequate vaccine stocks.

However, the initial confusion over online and spot vaccination registrations seemed to have been overcome this week, at least in rural vaccination centres. “I could get my vaccination done without much hassle,” Santhakumaran Nair, a veteran advertising professional who took his second dose of vaccination at Thalavady in Alappuzha district told Gulf News.

Sufficient oxygen

Meanwhile, Kerala has upped its daily medical oxygen stock to 219 metric tonnes this month from 99.39 metric tonnes last April, buttressing its oxygen supplies. This is in contrast to different states in India where oxygen supplies have run out or dwindled during the second wave of the pandemic.

The steady oxygen production and robust stocks in the state are credited to the state health department and the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisatyion (PESO), the federal agency monitoring the oxygen supply situation across the country.