The first stage of Kerala's Covid response was globally acclaimed and set an example for the rest of the country. However, since the local body elections, reporting emerging on the disease's spread are not pleasing. Half of the Covid cases reported in the country are from Kerala. The Centre released a warning concerning the spread of the infection and an expert team from the Centre is going to visit Kerala soon. During this week, Kerala's Covid positive cases are six times higher than the national average. Seven of the top 10 districts with the highest incidence of infections are from the State. The situation demands the strengthening of cautionary measures and is another situation where the government and the people have to join hands. But things are slipping out of control.
The election fever unleashed by leaders across the political spectrum ignores all precautionary measures and habits. The Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram is on the verge of a temporary shut-down; and the reason for the sudden spurt: the polls to the Canteen cooperative committee. Workers' unions have submitted a letter to the Chief Secretary requesting that attendance be cut short by 50 per cent. Several departments, including Finance and Legal, are functioning for namesake. Even a hundredth part of the caution exhibited at the Kerala State Film Awards - wherein awards were arranged on the table instead of gifted by hand - is absent in ministers' interactions across of 'healing touch' districts. The images of crowds and interactions involving ministers testify that all regulations are being thwarted. However, neither the BJP nor the Congress has the moral right to condemn this. 'Aiswarya Kerala Yatra' led by Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and the welcoming celebrations of BJP national leader JP Nadda appear to be held as if Kerala had been declared 'Covid-free'. There need not be any hope that the upcoming LDF yathra or BJP rally will be any different. Since election fever has gripped every one regardless of parties, Covid protocol will not bark or bite any more.
Amidst hope and relief rendered by the availability of vaccines, there are also concerns created by new virus strains across the globe. It is amidst this that the State with the largest number of patients is drumming up an electoral hubbub which is a shame on health literacy. In its periodic report, WHO has clarified that the new strains of the coronavirus which originated in Britain and South Africa have now spread to 71 countries. Following the report, American, European and South Asian countries reintroduced Covid protocols. The Saudi government has suspended all functions for the coming 30 days, and no more than 20 people can gather. Several Gulf countries have also declared travel restrictions. In UAE, events like the Global Village, which attract a massive crowd, have been temporarily suspended. Kerala is part of the Covid map threatened by the new Covid strain. As the world reintroduces precautions and turns to strict preventive measures, the example we had set is slipping away.
Political processions and campaigns that create unwarranted crowd should not be equated with the compulsion of migrant workers in search bread and jobs. Elections are mandatory even amidst a pandemic. However, there is no need for election campaign rallies from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram in digitally literate Kerala. The public is watching as leaders and political parties, who should be setting examples, play farcical roles thwarting preventive norms. Rather than promises, the public expects an honest approach from political parties. It is not hypocritical leaders that post-Covid Kerala needs. It is only when leaders and parties stay away rather than turn guilty of Covid spread that health vigilance will turn into a political awareness and culture.