Kerala tops the list of Covid-recovery cases among states. Over 90 per cent of those who tested positive for Covid have recovered and gone home, and that includes age groups from youth to octogenarians. The number of remaining patients under treatment is about two dozen.
This feat of Kerala has been assessed by now as comparable to that of the few other countries with a record of effective defence against Covid like New Zealand, Denmark and South Korea. Each step of the state government and its health department has been taken systematically and with creditable planning. And that was coupled with matching response from the people too. The result: the community transmission of the virus was sharply curtailed and the state was able to resist the health emergency. Even before the country went into a complete lockdown, the state had launched campaigns like 'Break the Chain'. As a part of it, each individual stayed vigilant in preventive aspects like personal hygiene. This high rate of recovery is a natural result of such a path of caution and vigil that had started even with the first indications of disease spread, implemented by maintaining physical distance in public places, taking to hand-washing with sanitizer and using facemasks. However, there are reasons to suspect whether the flattening of the Covid graph curve has generated some complacency among the people. For, the insistence on keeping social distance and washing hands appear to have waned. Our public places reflect an attitude that the war with Covid has already been won. It is feared that this free movement, ignoring the warnings of authorities and health workers, has the potential to invite hazards.
With five days left for the end of phase three of the lockdown, the overall scenario in the country is not very promising. Barring a few states including Kerala, the situation is still in a shadow of anxiety and fear. The number of confirmed Covid cases over the last five days is 17,751 which translates into a daily average of 3,552 new cases. One of the hotspots of the country is Kerala's neighbouring state, Tamil Nadu where, in the last few days, 400 new cases have been reported daily. Two facts are to be gleaned from this. First, we cannot get out of this crisis so easily. At the same time, lockdown cannot be extended indefinitely. Therefore, in the coming days, more and more relaxations will have to be made. And that is lilkely to aggravate the spread of the virus. Second, as long as the virus spread is continuing on the other side of the border, Kerala cannot be said to be in safe zone, especially with more and more Malayalis returning home from neighbouring states as well as from foreign countries. Despite that, there will be no justification in blocking the arrival of those who return. It may be a technically correct argument that there are risks in bringing back Keralities at a stage when the is at the threshold of Covid-free status. But such an approach would fall short of being humanitarian, and rather reflect a narrow-minded 'self-defence'. The course to follow is one of welcoming them with caution and vigil. Some of the returnees may be sick; there is no wonder that half of those who tested positive over the last three days were non-resident Keralites. With the partial resumption of train services, the flow of Malayalis from north India is bound to increase, with a possible rise in the number of cases. However, authorities, and that includes the chief minister himself, assure that the health department has taken sufficient precautionary measures with such an eventuality in mind. If the intervention of health department is effective, hazards will be considerably reduced. At the same time, there are real risks if, even as such patients receive extra attention and care, others ignore the vigil.
It is to be noted that violations of lockdown happen even when there is general awareness about the risks of Covid disease. One reason for this lack of compliance is the anxiety and impatience over the extension of the lockdown, in spite of several relaxations. As a matter of fact, this virus infection is not one that will leave us with the number of patients coming down to zero. If a complete prevention of Covid is to be achieved, that requires the development of drugs or vaccines against it and their wide application. As for corona research, despite optimistic news coming in about the development, it will take at least until the end of the year for it to reach the market. It will take another few months to prove its effectiveness, Until then, there is no way other than to remain subject to different levels of lockdown. What can be done at the individual level is to fall in line with the precautionary measures such as washing hands frequently, wearing mask and maintaining physical distance. Perhaps they are also habits that we will have to follow in a post-Covid world.