A day after reporting highest number of Covid-19 cases, there was some relief for Kerala on Thursday after caseload dipped to 5,445 and test positivity rate also came down to 8.62 from 13, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.

The state also recorded its highest single-day recovery of 7,003 on Thursday. But still it remained at the third spot in actives cases (90,579) after Maharashtra and Karnataka. Once lauded for its pandemic control measures, a mounting caseload has set off alarm bells in the state and experts warned if the situation continued like this it will be the next virus hotspot of the country. On Wednesday, Kerala recorded its highest single-day surge of 10.606 cases of Covid-19.

Despite a brief lull, experts said the state was in the midst of a community transmission and cases may go up sharply once it increased tests. They asked the government to increase tests on a priority basis and give more emphasis on RT-PCR tests. They pointed out that more than 60% per cent of the total 34 lakh tests were antigen tests.

Test positivity rate (TPR) has come down after two weeks. TPR is the number of people infected when 100 people are tested. The World Health Organisation wants TPR should be below 5 per cent.

“We have been asking the government to increase tests. It is time for it to do at least one lakh tests daily. The state is in a crucial stage and it is time for it to be on a fast mode streamlining its strategies,” said Dr S S Lal, a public health expert who earlier served with the World Health Organisation.

Many health experts like him want the government to rope in more experts to redraw strategies. Another solace is the state’s mortality rate is still lowest in the country, 0.4 per cent against the national average of 1.60 per cent, statistics show.

“The situation is serious as caseload is spiralling at a rapid pace. Our priority should be to ensure quality and timely medical attention to the critically ill. It is time for the state to be on its toes,” said Dr A S Anoop, critical care medicine expert who played a key role in containing nipah virus two years ago.

Epidemiologists said the latest Covid-19 strain, suspected to have come from Maharashtra, is highly infectious.

In view of rise in cases the government has decided not to announce more steps to open up and has shelved plans to open bars and cinema halls. Health experts have warned that easing of norms at this juncture will be counter-productive. Bar owners have been petitioning the government for some time saying most of their employees are on the verge of starvation. Similarly number of people in religious places was limited to 20.

With 5,445 new cases on Thursday, Kerala’s Covid-19 tally has gone up to 2,58,830. A total of 1,67,256 people have recovered while there are 90,579 active cases. With 24 casualties the death toll has gone up to 931. Five ministers tested positive in the state so far.

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