A day after Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan remarked about the spike in COVID-19 cases in Kerala, state health minister KK Shailaja offered a clarification to the statement.
With Kerala witnessing a spurt in infections recently, Vardhan said the southern state was "paying the price for gross negligence" during Onam festivities when unlocking of services along with an increase in travel for trade and tourism led to the spread of COVID-19.
To this, Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja clarified that the statement of the union minister was meant to caution people in other states ahead of the festive season.
"It's important to control crowds and gatherings as part of COVID-19 mitigation process. However, gatherings happened during Onam festivities despite the directions issued against it.
Since then, the number of cases in Kerala have been on the rise," Shailaja said adding "the statement of the union minister was to caution everyone as in other states, the festive season will begin soon."
However, Opposition parties in Kerala on Sunday hit out at the Left government and alleged that the health sector reflects the true picture of the state.
Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala said the assessment of COVID-19 situation in Kerala by the Union Health Minister reflects the true picture of the state.
"The assessment of the union minister is the true reflection of the situation in the state and theOpposition has also been raising the same issue. The state government had completely failed in fighting COVID-19.
Other than the daily press conferences of the CM in the evening, there was no systematic action to fight the pandemic," Chennithala said in a release.
BJP state president K Surendran in a statement alleged that the health sector in Kerala has collapsed and central government's assistance should be sought for the prevention of COVID-19.
"The statement of the Union Health Minister that Kerala's gross negligence in fighting the pandemic was a blow to the state government. The state failed to make necessary preparations while being engaged in a fake campaign using PR agency," Surendran said.
Kerala's COVID-19 tally has crossed 3.3 lakh while the toll climbed to 1,161 on Sunday.
Prior to Onam in August, the state had reported around 54,000 cases, while the toll was nearly 200.
Responding to a query from a citizen in his 'Sunday Samvaad' programme, Vardhan said between January 30 and May 3, Kerala had reported just 499 cases and two deaths due to the disease.
He alleged that Kerala was paying the price of gross negligence during the recent Onam festivities when state-wise unlocking of services along with an increase in inter and intrastate travel for trade and tourism led to the spread of COVID-19 across various districts.
In her Facebook live video this evening, Shailaja said Kerala has the lowest case fatality rate in the country even as there was a steady rise in the number of positive cases in the state.
She noted that in May the case fatality rate was 0.77 per cent in the state, which was brought down to 0.34 per cent.
"Currently the case fatality rate in Kerala is 0.34 percent. State followed strict health protocol to reduce the death rate in the state. The fatality rate is normally considered as death per million.
That is, how many deaths per 10 lakh population.
In Tamil Nadu, it's 147 per million while in Karnataka, it's 170 per million and in Maharashtra, it is 371 per million.
In Kerala our fatality rate is 34 per million,which shows that the state has been tackling the COVID-19 pandemic in a scientific manner," she said.
She also said the state has ramped up testing gradually and scientifically and around 60,000 tests were carried out per day.
Dismissing the Opposition charge that there was a shortage of ICUs and ventilators in the state,Shailaja said there are 2,141 ICUs and 2,169 ventilators in the government sector and only 21 percent of ICUs and five per cent of ventilators are currently occupied.
"Out of the 2,141 ICUs across the state, currently, only 445 are occupied. There are 2,169 ventilators in the government sector, including 119 portable ventilators.
1,507 ICU ventilators and 543 non-invasive ones. Only 104 are occupied.
In the private sector 7,085 ICU units are there, out of which 275 are currently being occupied.
There are 1,523 ventilators in the private sector and only 65 are occupied," minister said.
She said the numbers show that the health sector in Kerala is capable of handling the pandemic despite the rise in the number of cases and it is still trying to procure more ventilators and increase the number of ICUs despite a shortage in the market.