As Kerala’s COVID-19 graph continued its surge with over 26,000 fresh cases on Saturday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the situation was grim, and likened it to a volcano which can erupt any moment. “We are sitting on a volcano which can explode any moment. People should understand the situation and take adequate precaution to protect themselves,” Vijayan told reporters here.
The disease, which has claimed 5,080 lives in the state, will spread faster than expected and cases are likely to be much more than the surge capacity of the state’s medical sector, he said. Kerala’s active cases soared to 1.98 lakh on Saturday as the state reported 26,685 fresh cases, pushing the COVID-19 caseload to 13.77 lakh.
“There is no shortage of oxygen as of now and there was no need for any anxiety,” Vijayan said, adding, all steps should be taken to ensure that the ICUs and ventilators are fully functional and there are enough hospital beds. In the backdrop of rising cases, the government today held discussions with management of private hospitals and they have been asked to set apart 25 per cent of beds exclusively for COVID treatment and to ensure that exorbitant charges are not levied from the patients.
With regard to vaccines, Vijayan said he had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again today pointing out that the current rates for procuring the jabs were not reasonable. “Today, there are three rates for the same vaccine–the Centre procures it at Rs 150 per dose, the state Rs 400 and the private hospitals Rs 600. A news report says Rs 600 is around eight dollars which is highest in the world,” Vijayan said.
The vaccine manufacturing company had claimed that it is making profit even while charging Rs 150 per dose, he claimed. “Now the rates have been increased and we don’t know why.” “Our demand is that the government sector should be given vaccines free of cost and the company should provide vaccine to the private sector at a reasonable rate,” the CM said.
The PM should intervene, he added. Vijayan said there was need to maintain caution, not panic.
“Media also needs to be vigilant in this regard. Those spreading misinformation on social media will be booked. Be vigilant against fake messages, trust only official sources. Adhere to directives and maintain guard. We shall overcome!” Vijayan tweeted.
In view of the surging virus cases, a 48-hour lockdown-like curb was imposed on Saturday in the state with only essential services and emergency activities being allowed. All business establishments remained shut and vehicles were off the roads in most places.
The Kerala police registered 5,371 cases against those flouting COVID-19 protocol and 22,703 people were booked for not wearing masks. Kozhikode accounted for 3,767 cases, the highest today, followed by Ernakulam 3,320. Malappuram, Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam recorded over 2,000 cases.
Of the positive cases, 259 people had come from outside the state and 24,596 were infected through contact. At least 4,31,587 people are undergoing treatment for the virus in various districts, including 18,415 in hospitals..