Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan created a flutter on Saturday by announcing that all citizens in the State would receive the Covid-19 vaccination free of cost as and when it is made available, even as the State was in the midst of elections to the local bodies.
The first two phases of the polls have been held with a turnout that surprised most observers and political parties, and a third phase is still pending. Vijayan’s announcement on a free vaccine has set off a debate on whether this could amount to a breach of the model code of conduct.
But he would have none of it, and told an evening press conference on Saturday, that that this is merely an extension of the ongoing free treatment for all patients. The State does not intend to charge money on anyone for the vaccination, joining peers such as Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.
Chief Minister Vijayan also expressed relief over the fact that the number of active cases has come down from a peak of 97,000 during late-October down to fewer than 60,000 and the test positivity ratio from as high as 17 per cent to below 10 per cent. But whether this trend would hold has to be seen, he warned.
Polls, a likely super spreader event?
The State government had already sounded an alarm that the local body polls could turn out to be feared Covid-19 super spreader event. The Chief Minister echoed it on Saturday in the context of the relaxation of associated protocols especially with respect to the congregation of people across the State.
The Covid-19-related mortality too has shown a spike to around 30 on a daily basis, but Vijayan said that the mortality rate is expected to go up with every peak in the disease burden. Still, he chose to draw comfort from the fact that the case fatality in the State continued to be among the lowest in the country.
Given the context, the Chief Minister advised the public to observe utmost caution and work with the government to tame the spread of the virus. He also appealed to them to be mindful of the incidence post-Covid-19 complications and seek immediate medical care for them from public health centres.
Meanwhile, State Health Minister KK Shailaja saw reason to believe that Kerala would likely witness a huge jump in Covid-19 spread post-local body elections. An increased disease count means higher mortality and hence, hospitals, health workers and police have been accordingly sounded out.
“Everyone should be prepared to follow the self-lock down and restrain themselves unless absolutely necessary,” she warned while speaking in Kasaragod.
Earlier instances of easing of the lockdown had led to a huge increase in the disease rate. The elderly and the children must stay at home, the minister said.
Precautionary measures were being taken, given the scope for a worsening of the disease burden. In case it happens, those who can afford it would have to be treated in private hospitals. Shailaja blamed the Centre for not providing adequate assistance during natural calamities and epidemics in Kerala.
Test positivity ratio at 9.97 per cent
Meanwhile on Saturday, the State reported 5,949 new cases of the virus out of 59,690 samples tested, taking the cumulative caseload to 6,64,632 cases. The test positivity rate went up to touch 9.97 per cent. But 5,268 patients recovered the same day too, restricting the active case load to 60,029.
The addition of 32 deaths to the official death list has pushed up the cumulative toll to 2,594, though the case fatality ratio is at a low 0.4 per cent. The tests per million is approaching the two-lakh mark at 1,97,056 on Saturday. Recovery ratio too has improved to more than 90 per cent as on date.