A Long, Painful Year Of Covid: How Kerala Government Turned The State Into An Epidemic Basket Case

by Venu Gopal Narayanan - Jan 30, 2021 11:27 AM +05:30 IST
A Long, Painful Year Of Covid: How Kerala Government Turned The State Into An Epidemic Basket CaseKerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. 
  • Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan may reject these truths but data says that the Marxist government’s handling of the epidemic has been by far the worst our country has had to suffer.

    Here are a few, simple charts to prove this point.

This weekend marks one year since the Wuhan virus arrived in Kerala; the first case in India was confirmed from Thrissur on 30 January 2020. Twelve months on, there is much that can be said about the quality of epidemic management in Kerala, as it races to cross Karnataka, and take up second place behind Maharashtra in the virus tally.

The grammatically puritanical may employ adjectives like deplorable, execrable, or atrocious. The emotionally-charged might use words like alarm or shock. Those who are ideologically inclined to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s faithless faith may reject these truths, and call it a wicked, fascist plot to malign their revolution. The livid might even be rendered speechless.

But the statistically driven will, instead, analyse the data and conclude that Vijayan’s Marxist government’s handling of the epidemic in Kerala, has been by far the worst our country has had to suffer. A few, simple charts will prove this point.

As on date, Kerala has the highest number of active cases in the country — over 70,000. The true magnitude of this unenviable encomium becomes more apparent, when active cases are plotted against state population size:

Chart 1: State-wise active cases as on date versus state population (2011 census)
Chart 1: State-wise active cases as on date versus state population (2011 census)

This figure, of over 70,000, is being registered at a time when a similar tally in most other large states is down to the low four digits, and headed lower. In fact, the only other province in the country, manifesting somewhat similar high trends to what Vijayan has managed to achieve is, unsurprisingly, Maharashtra.

This abject anomaly gains greater perspective when we learn that Kerala accounts for a bulk of the daily cases reported across India. As can be seen from the chart below, this figure has surged unremittingly since late November, to the extent that it now ranges consistently, at between a third to half of all cases reported daily in the country:

Chart 2: Daily cases reported in Kerala as percentage of national total
Chart 2: Daily cases reported in Kerala as percentage of national total

The net result is that cumulative positivity has risen inexorably from October onwards, to hold steady at about the 10 per cent mark. This is an extremely high figure, with the potential to burst into a fresh wave (like it happened in Delhi around Diwali), and is next only to Maharashtra (14 per cent). Note the orange line in the chart below:

Chart 3: Kerala epidemic data chart (positivity plotted on separate axis; in orange)
Chart 3: Kerala epidemic data chart (positivity plotted on separate axis; in orange)

That is a unique feat, since a year of epidemic data, both in India and abroad, shows us that the only time such a situation arises, is when an administration continues to chase the virus, instead of bringing it to heel; or in other words, it marks a dangerous, slovenly approach to epidemic management.

In addition, the red, daily cases curve in the chart above shows that the past month has been dominated by a visible rising trend in Kerala, at a time when case counts are consistently decreasing in the rest of the country.

Why is this happening? The answer is simple: because the Vijayan government is still not testing enough. There is a systemic slothfulness which is vividly apparent in the testing patterns. As can also be seen from the purple line in Chart 3 above, testing was never consistent; looks like weekends are more sacred to Marxists than their public duty of containing the contagion.

At the same time, testing also failed to breach the 75,000/day mark, even after months, when it became painfully apparent that they were just not testing enough. This is a shameful comedown for a government, which trumpeted the mantra of ‘testing, testing, testing’, all through a long season of brownnosing for awards they definitely didn’t deserve. And this is the reason why positivity has been holding so steady, for so long, at such high levels in Kerala.

This point is reinforced by a plot of cumulative testing versus state population:

Chart 4: Total tests versus state population
Chart 4: Total tests versus state population

This chart actually shows Kerala to be clustered in the lower left quadrant of poor performers, while Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are way ahead of the rest of the states, both in absolute and relative terms. It also shows just how good a job the governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have done.

And a final graphic surveys the contentious issue of mortality. As it is, there are enough murmurs doing the rounds in Kerala, that Vijayan and his Marxists have been under-reporting Covid-related deaths via a sophistic reinterpretation of causality criteria; this is something which even the BBC was forced to report.

Yet in fact, the state’s own epidemic statistics are actually adequate to substantiate this point. As the chart below shows, a curious inconsistency arises when cumulative deaths and mortality are cross-plotted against cumulative cases. We see that mortality rates remain roughly linear at an incredulously-low rate of around 0.4 per cent, while cumulative deaths rise in a non-linear fashion. In other words, mortality rates stay the same while the case rates climb. How is that possible?

 Chart 5: Kerala mortality cross-plot
Chart 5: Kerala mortality cross-plot

How exactly Pinarayi Vijayan and his Marxists managed to blunder so thoroughly, and put so many innocent lives at such grave risk, is a question for a future commission of inquiry. All that can be said at this stage, based on the available data, is that they have turned the most developed state in India into an epidemic basket case, in one long and painful year.

Still, this much is clear: the communists seem to have given up on Kerala. Will it be that Kerala gives up on the communists in return, in the forthcoming assembly elections there?

All data from Covid19india.org

Venu Gopal Narayanan is an independent upstream petroleum consultant who focuses on energy, geopolitics, current affairs and electoral arithmetic. He tweets at @ideorogue.
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