The Kerala government has deservedly received praise from across the world for its prompt response and efficient handling of the coronavirus pandemic that left world leaders scrambling to minimise the damage. However, the state now faces some considerable challenges even as it has eased restrictions to allow some economic activity to resume.
Kerala had just about flattened the curve when the return of non-resident Malayalis to the state triggered a spike, leading to an increase in active COVID-19 cases again.
At its lowest point, active cases in the state were at just 16 on May 8, with only one case confirmed that day. New cases had been steadily declining with no new cases reported on several days preceding this. But May 8 marked a turning point, with Kerala soon reporting new cases in double digits every day.
On Wednesday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “We will have to intensify surveillance and also strictly enforce lockdown in critical areas. The state will be facing a dangerous situation if the number of positive cases increases considerably.”
The rise in cases comes as the state faces challenges on multiple fronts.
1. Return of migrants
Kerala has a significant migrant population and the state had been anticipating and planning for their return much before it opened up, by expanding the number of hospital beds and quarantine centres to accommodate more people.
The state’s registration process to allow for the return of people stranded in various countries and states began on April 26.
Manorama reports that on May 6, when the first two flights bearing evacuees landed, only 14,750 people in the state were under observation in both homes and hospitals, with 30 active COVID-19 cases.
On May 20, a fortnight later, 74,398 people were under surveillance in Kerala and the number of active cases had grown by five times to 161.