Covid 19: Kerala’s claims come to a nought

Graph showing trend of Covid 19 cases in Kerala (source: GoK).

Kerala’s claim of lower number of deaths owing to Covid 19 among States in India has come to a nought.

Kerala’s deaths on account of Covid 19 per million population crossed 100 by the end of January 2021 with more than 25000 cases reported per million population. The deaths per million at the end of December 2020 was 84. This jumped to 105 by January 31, 2021. The total number of confirmed cases crossed the one million mark on February  14, 2021. 

Nearly half of the States and Union Territories in India have these figures lower than that of Kerala, as per officially-reported numbers. They include Uttar Pradesh, Telengana, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

Haryana, Maharastra, Punjab and West Bengal had similar number of deaths per million population to that of Kerala last month.  By now, Kerala has surpassed them also.

Active cases remain high Kerala while cases in other States barring Maharastra have come down. Some States are not reporting deaths anymore.

The official explanation for continuing higher number of infections in the State is that it had been able to contain spread of the disease significantly in the first six months while the disease had spread to a large proportion of the population in many other States. The latter had thus achieved some kind of herd immunity while the vast majority of Keralities are yet to be infected. (This will give some advantage to Kerala in the end if vaccination could stop the disease from spreading further). Sero-prevalence studies confirm this. The numbers of unreported infections were very high in other States, compared to Kerala.  The national average in this respect is nearly double that of Kerala, according to studies conducted in December 2020-January 2021. (11.6 per cent of adult population in Kerala was found to be infected while the national average was 21.4 per cent.)

However, this casts doubts about the claim that case fatality rate in Kerala, which currently stands at 0.4 per cent, is lower than in other States. Many other States would have had similar case fatality figures if most of the cases had been reported. For example, the cases reported per million population in West Bengal is below one fourth of Kerala and case fatality rate was 1.78 per cent last month end. But the deaths per million population was around the same as that of Kerala. (While Covid 19 cases could easily go unreported, deaths get reported to a large extent.)

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