Kerala, India’s ‘model state’ in COVID-19 fight, suffers setback

The southern Indian state set to ban gatherings of more than five people amid recent spike in coronavirus cases.

Migrant workers stranded in Kerala due to a COVID-19 lockdown arrive at a railway station in Kochi to leave for their home state of eastern Odisha [File: Sivaram V/Reuters]

The southern Indian state of Kerala is set to ban gatherings of more than five people amid a recent surge in coronavirus cases, a setback for the state hailed by experts as a model in the fight against the pandemic.

Indian media reports on Friday said the imposition of Section 144 of India’s penal code will be effective in Kerala for a month starting on Saturday, thereby banning any social or political gathering in the state.

The measure was announced after Kerala reported 8,135 fresh cases on Thursday. It currently has more than 72,000 active COVID-19 cases, the third highest among Indian states, according to the reports.

“The state’s total confirmed cases doubled in September and crossed 200,000 on Thursday,” said the Mint newspaper, making Kerala “the ninth state in India” to cross the grim milestone.

The Indian Express said the surge in cases in a state that in April had successfully flattened the coronavirus curve has “generated extreme concern among the state’s health officials”.

Unlike most Indian states, Kerala has a robust healthcare system which had helped the communist party-run state turn the tide against the pandemic earlier this year.

In June, Kerala’s Health Minister, KK Shailaja, was honoured by the United Nations for her efforts to fight the pandemic.

The surge in Kerala’s coronavirus cases came as India is on the verge of reporting 100,000 deaths from the respiratory disease.

With 1,095 deaths reported in the past 24 hours, an update by the federal health ministry on Friday raised India’s death toll to 99,773, while 81,484 new cases were reported.

India’s reported deaths are low for a country with nearly 1.4 billion people and more than 6.3 million confirmed cases, but experts say it may not be counting all of its true fatalities.

Total cases jumped from a million in mid-July to more than six million in less than two and a half months.

New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru are the main urban centres of the infections, accounting for one in every seven confirmed cases and one in every five deaths in the country.

Source: Al Jazeera