Media Accolades Be What They May, Truth Is Team Vijayan’s ‘Model’ To Fight Corona Virus Is Crumbling

Media Accolades Be What They May, Truth Is Team Vijayan’s ‘Model’ To Fight Corona Virus Is Crumbling  Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Communist Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat. (Photo by Vivek R Nair/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • As things stand, the number of active cases has soared, and Kerala is now third on the states’ list, behind only Maharashtra and Karnataka.

    Four districts in Kerala are each reporting nearly as many cases as Bihar or Gujarat — Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Ernakulam and Malappuram.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Communist government recently won an award from a prominent media house, for its successful efforts in combating the Wuhan Virus.

The irony and timing of such an award has left many Indians nonplussed, since the latest epidemic data from Kerala shows quite a different picture — that on the contrary, maladministration by the Communists has, in fact, let the situation there spin wildly out of control, rather than eradicating the menace.

As things stand, the number of active cases has soared, and Kerala is now third on the states’ list, behind only Maharashtra and Karnataka.

The growth rate this week averages 4 per cent, against a national average of 1.3 per cent.

Worse, the average daily case count has trebled in less than two weeks, going up from around 3,000 a day to almost 10,000 a day.

This can be seen clearly on the dark red curve in Chart 1 below:

Media Accolades Be What They May, Truth Is Team Vijayan’s ‘Model’ To Fight Corona Virus Is Crumbling

Cumulative positivity, perhaps the most significant epidemic monitoring parameter, had already been rising consistently in Kerala since June in spite of higher testing levels.

As can be seen from the orange curve in Chart 1 above, this trend has adopted a steeper, upward trajectory from the last fortnight.

Kerala’s aggregate positivity is now at a grim 7.1 per cent, and rising this week, at a grimmer 0.14 per cent per day.

To put these figures in perspective, positivity in Kerala is rising steeply, exactly when it is stabilising or reducing in other states.

Even the national positivity values have entered a decline phase. Now, the Kerala numbers may not seem as fearful as Maharashtra, where positivity is at a staggering 21 per cent, but that is no cause for relief.

As Chart 2 below shows, at some point, comparisons must end, and the hard work of eradicating the contagion must begin afresh in Kerala, if matters are not to get further out of hand:

Media Accolades Be What They May, Truth Is Team Vijayan’s ‘Model’ To Fight Corona Virus Is Crumbling

A third important parameter that has gone up in Kerala is the test positivity rate (TPR), or the ratio of daily positive cases to daily number of samples tested.

Sadly, as Chart 3 below shows, the TPR in Kerala has not just outstripped the national trend (which by the way is declining marginally this week), but looks set to cross even Maharashtra, if Pinarayi Vijayan doesn’t get his act together very soon.

For additional reference, readers may also note how consistently the purple Uttar Pradesh curve has declined, since that state ramped up testing to benchmark levels.

This is what Kerala should have been doing four months ago.

Media Accolades Be What They May, Truth Is Team Vijayan’s ‘Model’ To Fight Corona Virus Is Crumbling

One key negative outcome of this situation in Kerala is that patient recovery rates are down to 63 per cent, against a national average of 84 per cent; and the rate is dropping, instead of rising as it should.

Now, if we thought that the situation in Kerala was bad, data shows that the situation in some districts is actually far worse.

Four districts in Kerala are each reporting nearly as many cases as Bihar or Gujarat — Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Ernakulam (Kochi) and Malappuram.

And that’s with grossly insufficient testing ongoing, which means that the actual numbers are probably much higher.

Not surprisingly, the biggest culprit is Malappuram district in Malabar (central Kerala).

This week, testing is running at an absurdly low average of 2,300 samples a day, while the TPR is at a staggering average of 40 per cent.

That is pretty much the highest in the country. So very simply put, the situation there is dire.

The true nature of the problem is clearly brought out by Chart 4 below.

Malappuram’s TPR curve is in dark red:

Media Accolades Be What They May, Truth Is Team Vijayan’s ‘Model’ To Fight Corona Virus Is Crumbling

Of course, there may be those valiant defenders who argue that TPR values carry some inherent subjectivity due to day-wise focus of testing, and sensitivity, due to the number of samples collected each day.

It’s not a wholly-valid argument, but nonetheless, in that case, the unambiguous counter is Chart 5 below, which shows just how much higher the cumulative positivity in Malappuram is, when compared to either adjoining districts, or to Kerala as a whole.

Media Accolades Be What They May, Truth Is Team Vijayan’s ‘Model’ To Fight Corona Virus Is Crumbling

As we can see from the chart above, the positivity in Malappuram (the dark red curve) is at almost 15 per cent. That is double the Kerala value of 7 per cent (purple curve).

All of this boils down to testing. This was pointed out by Swarajya most recently a month ago, and repeatedly before that, since April.

Yet still, as Chart 6 below shows, testing levels in Malappuram (as in Kerala) have been dangerously low for reasons best known only to Pinarayi Vijayan.

If he continues to harbour any doubts or scepticism, all he has to do is look at the figures in the adjoining district of Kozhikode (green curve), where testing levels are up, and positivity is still below the state average.

Note where the dark red Malappuram curve runs:

Media Accolades Be What They May, Truth Is Team Vijayan’s ‘Model’ To Fight Corona Virus Is Crumbling

To compound the epidemic woes in Malappuram, it has now come to light that a lab in Valanchery town in the district, had illegally issued around 2000 Covid-negative certificates without even analysing the swab samples it collected.

Leave aside the fact that this criminal fraud netted the lab a cool Rs 50 lakh, the greater concern is that these 2,000 people are now moving about Malappuram (and other parts of Kerala) with fake certificates, infecting who knows how many innocents.

And this is only one lab in one town in one district.

So must we ask: How is it that Kozhikode district managed to average about 6,000 tests a day, while adjoining Malappuram was unable to average even 2,000 a day?

Is there a non-epidemiological reason why the Kerala government is so hesitant to do requisite testing in Malappuram district?

Does Pinarayi Vijayan understand the implications on Kerala, of letting a lethal epidemic grow so unattended in an entire district, that the TPR there skyrockets to 40 per cent?

Does he understand the national ramifications of this?

All in all, the picture which emerges is of an administration that appears to have given up on the fight against the Wuhan virus.

A wag might say that this laxity is prompted by ideological empathy with the virus’s Sinic origins, but frankly, this is no laughing matter.

Kerala is a retirement state, with a larger percentage of senior citizens, which means that a larger percentage of the population is at greater risk.

It is also entirely possible that such inadequate testing and containment efforts may have allowed two or three cycles of infection to come and go in the state without detection (more so, as recent medical studies indicate that antigen tests mightn’t detect these past infections, since the antibodies apparently decompose after a few months).

The net result is that Section 144 has been imposed in Kerala for a month by Vijayan, exactly when the rest of the country is gradually easing into a fifth stage of reopening, and a relaxation of restrictions.

Businesses in Kerala are in dire straits. Livelihoods are being lost. Tourism is shattered. Marxian whimsicality, cluelessness and incompetence are ruining commerce. State revenues are down.

Perhaps, it is time for the Central government to either have a firm word with Pinarayi Vijayan, or to assist Kerala with proactive containment efforts of their own, before more lives are ruined, and the state bankrupts itself any further.

Such steeply-rising positivity trends, soaring daily case counts, benthic testing levels, and a TPR of 40 per cent in Malappuram district, are auguries of portentous concern for Kerala, which cannot be left unchecked a moment longer.

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