This year's Independence Day celebrations in Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram does not have the customary presence of the chief minister, and is substituted by Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran; the chief minister has gone into observation as part of Covid precautions. District collector of Malappuram K Gopalakrishnan had tested Covid positive the other day, and the chief minister was present at the site of the Karippur air-crash, when he visited there. Together with him, ministers AC Moideen, KT Jaleel, Ramachandran Kadannapply and E Chandrashekharan have also gone into self-isolation. The overall message emerging from this and other developments, is that Covid is taking the state to a situation more complicated than it was made out to be.
On Thursday, health minister KK Shailaja also stated that during next month the state's daily cases may rise to 10,000. She added that experts are estimating a patient figure of ten to twenty thousand, and as more cases are reported, the death rate may also increase. The minister's statement comes in the backdrop of Kerala seeing a spurt in the number of persons contracting the virus through contacts. It is several months since the spread of the pandemic started upsetting the day-to-day lives of people the world over. Science and man have not been able to evolve an effective preventive strategy to combat the disease so far. Kerala is a state that has greater susceptibility to the spread of virus, given its thick population density, higher percentage of the aged and the high incidence of lifestyle diseases. By now, the state has lost its upper hand in arresting the spread of the disease. The only consoling factor is that the death rate from the virus still remains low.
Covid is not a disease that causes major risks for a person of normal health. At the same time, in the case of patients with co-morbidities, the virus can pose big risks. More important than all this is the speedy infection rate of the corona virus, which can easily be transmitted from man to man resulting in a doubling of infected at a fast pace. When the number of patients rises exponentially, hospitals and preventive machinery get fatigued. And such a spread will lead to all related agencies like police and public health officials coming to a halt. This makes its immediately imperative to stem the spread of infection as the most needed preventive step. However, the ways to put this preventive mechanism in place is also fraught with the risk of endangering the livelihoods of the people - which was why it was not possible to extend the lockdown beyond a period. If the lockdown had continued indefinitely, the land would have moved to a crash of the economy and hunger deaths, more lethal than the virus itself. The fact is that even in the current stage of limited restrictions, our economy is just beginning to crawl.
Kerala is now also in the run-up to the local body elections in the midst of fears that Covid may not go away so soon. It is not clear how polling can be conducted in compliance with Covid protocol. If at all it is held as laid down, that will consume huge amounts of money and time, much above the normal requirement. The wise step in this scenario would be a postponement of the local body election. However, the political parties in the state have not demanded it, probably because of fear of allegations by adversaries that it is because of dread of defeat. Therefore, even parties that would privately support postponement will not openly raise such a demand. That said, all parties will do well to remember that Covid prevention is not to be taken as a matter of prestige or on the basis of prospects of winning and losing. At this juncture, at least health experts should come forward to give their professional view honestly.
The political scene has also become more heated now than it was at the beginning of Covid outbreak. Several hot issues have arisen in the meantime, including the gold smuggling case putting the chief minister's office itself under a shadow of suspicion. A no confidence motion is also being tabled in the assembly. Already the ruling front's spokesmen have branded this move at this time as 'anti-national'. In a way, when avenues for of arts and film or enjoyment of sea breeze and such other feasts of enjoyment have all gone for a break because of Covid, it may be entertaining to watch at least politics taking centre-stage with its virulence. However, what is seriously needed is for minds not get frozen exclusively by the scaring depiction of Covid. It is equally crucial that dictatorial tendencies are not let have their day, and transactions leading to disease spread are kept at bay. With all such current factors at play, prudence demands a deferment of local elections. All the same, we still have to develop ways and means to make the Covid prevention machinery scientific and well-calibrated, without affecting day-to-day life and the economy.