Out of the 28,481 people who were reported to have tested positive for coronavirus in Kerala on Tuesday, January 18, 6,911 are from Thiruvananthapuram; which means more than 24% of the patients are from the capital district. Thiruvananthapuram also reportedly has a test positivity rate of 48%. The highest number of cases after Thiruvananthapuram was reported in Ernakulam, which tested 4,013 new COVID-19 patients. Kozhikode reported 2,967 cases.
"Unlike the first and second waves of COVID-19, there has been a huge spread of the disease right from the beginning of the third wave. If the spread rate (R-naught) in the second wave was 2.68, now it is 3.12, which means the spread of the new Omicron variant is six times that of the earlier Delta variant," said Kerala Health Minister Veena George. R-naught denotes the number of people likely to be infected by a patient.
The second wave had reached Kerala in April of 2021 with the spread of the Delta variant. It took the state more time to reduce the number of daily COVID-19 cases than the rest of the country. It was explained away at the time by the state delaying the spread of the virus with extreme measures like lockdowns, which left a greater number of people uninfected, and vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. For the cases to come down, there had to be a vast number of infections or vaccinations to improve immunity; and Kerala, its Health Department said, decided to wait for the vaccinations. While this meant that Kerala would need more time to reach the herd immunity that other states with high rapid spike and decline in numbers already had, it helped reduce the number of casualties here, according to the Kerala Health Department.
By the time the fast-spreading Omicron variant reached Kerala, it had already taken the state months to reduce its TPR to 5%. Infections in the last few weeks have increased manifold. However, out of the 1,42,512 COVID-19 patients, only 3.4% are in hospitals, said the Health Department.
"Do not think it is okay to get COVID-19 and be done with it. There is a lot of fake information on social media regarding COVID-19 and Omicron," Minister Veena warned. The state is preparing for this emergency by vaccinating as many people as possible, she said. Nearly 99.8% of people above the age of 18 have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 83% people have got the second dose. Vaccination for children in the 15-18 age group is also proceeding, and 57% have taken them already. As for a third booster dose, priority is being given to senior citizens.
Of the new cases reported on Tuesday, more than 92% had received either one or both doses of vaccination. Minister Veena also gave assurances of preparing hospitals with ICUs, beds and ventillators.
Despite the precautions taken, 1,508 health workers have been infected in recent days. A health worker in Varkala, Nursing Officer Saritha, died of COVID-19 on Monday, January 17.
The state has not yet announced any lockdown and discontinued the earlier night curfew it had imposed. A review meeting of the situation will be held on Thursday, January 20, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is in the United States for treatment and will be attending it virtually.