Ritika Gupta, Sakshi Sharda, Ishika Chaudhary, Swati Solanki, Mahima Kapoor, Chhavi Kapoor, Arjun Kumar and IMPRI Team
The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected Indian states and Union Territories and Kerala has been no exception. Due to issues like lack of infrastructure and human resources, both rural and urban people were caged in the web of grief and misery wherein even to see one’s loved one last time who succumbed to Coronavirus became an act of privilege.
Focusing on the Rural Realities around the country during the pandemic, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS)and IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on “Rural Realities | Kerala Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on May 20, 2021.
This article is an excerpt of the presentation given by Swati Solanki and the IMPRI team which provided an overview of the COVID-19 situation in India with special reference to Kerala to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panelists.
Kerala is situated in the southwestern end of the Indian subcontinent. It has a long history of art and cultural heritage and foreign trade with other countries. The state with the highest literacy rate in India is noted for its achievements in education, health, gender equality, law, and order. In addition to these, the state has the lowest infant mortality rate in the country.
Before the independence of India, Kerala was one of the princely states in India. The state was formed on 1 November 1956. Kerala lies between the Arabian Sea in the West and the Western Ghats in the East with an area of 38,863 sq. km. It is one of the five states in the linguistic-cultural area known as South India.
The neighbouring states are Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and also surrounds Mahe, a segment of the UT of Puducherry, on the north-western coast. The capital of the state is Thiruvananthapuram (formerly known Trivandrum).
For administrative purposes the State is divided into 14 revenue districts, namely: Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanadu, Kannur and Kasaragod.
The tropical climate and the rich monsoons offer beautiful landscapes, presence of abundant water bodies, long beaches and more than 40 rivers add to the charm, making Kerala popular by the name “God’s Own Country”. In terms of the Economy, Remittances in Kerala from the gulf countries contribute to nearly over one fourth of Kerala’s National State Domestic Product.
Coming to the socio-economic indicators, about 52% of the total population resides in rural areas. In terms of Sex ratio and literacy rate, Kerala has achieved commendable heights. In terms of the progress made in SDG goals, Kerala is ranked 1st among the Indian states and UTs and 8th in terms of per capita income.
COVID-19 Second Wave
The first and the second wave of the coronavirus has hit India very badly and Kerala has been no exception. The first wave of the pandemic had its peak on 16 Sept 2020 and Kerala has been a major contributor to the total number of cases. There have been different events adding to the total COVID-19 cases, including migration, festivities, and local and state elections.
When the first nationwide lockdown was imposed, there were a lot of issues faced by migrant workers and consequently, govt had also been trying to reach out to them through transportation services like Vande Bharat Flights, isolation facilities, and income support measures.
During COVID-19 second wave, as of 14th May 2021, Kerala ha recorded about 20 lakh cases and about 6000 deaths. Kerala faces the greatest strain any state has seen so far, and has also ramped up its testing.
Looking at the district wise distribution of cases in Kerala, we can see that district like Kasargod, Kannur, Wayanad, have contributed to a large no. of cases in Kerala. Seeing the rise in no. of cases in the country, various states extended curbs to fight against the pandemic and so has Kerala.
Counting the Dead
The State of Kerala has had a high testing rate and positivity rate. The state has been able to maintain the fatality rate at 0.4 percent against the national average of 1.3 percent. Though the state continues to report cases while the peak of the second wave has definitely gone down, yet the second wave has not come to an end in the State.
There have been emerging issues in the state of Kerala, Vaccination is one among them. So, Kerala has decided to purchase one crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine directly from the manufactures. The age group of 18-45 years has remained a non-starter because of low stock of vaccines and the priority has been shifted to people above the 45 years age group. In terms of oxygen, there has been rise in demand for medical oxygen in the state, which has more than doubled.
The vaccination drive in Kerala was launched on 16th January 2021. The first priority group has been healthcare and frontline workers. And the second age priority groups have been people above 60 yrs of age and persons between 45 and 59 years with comorbid conditions. As of 15 may 2021, about 82 lakh people have been vaccinated in Kerala.
According to experts, Kerala is well prepared to meet the demand by augmenting production besides arranging supplies from outside. In terms of health infrastructure and manpower, Kerala has a well-developed infrastructure and the role of frontline workers have played a key role in the fight against the pandemic. While increasing the capacity and infrastructure in hospitals is much needed at this point in time, shortage of human resources is emerging as major problem which requires immediate attention, in order to minimize the impact of the second wave and prepare for a third wave in moving towards a healthy and prosperous Kerala.