The surge in COVID-19 infections in Kerala continued with the daily cases soaring past 30,000 for the second consecutive day on Thursday, even as opposition and public health experts attacked the state government's alleged "carelessness" and "unwise" decisions for the spike.
Kerala today clocked 30,007 fresh cases, which is slightly lower than yesterday's 31,445 virus infection.
Kerala health minister Veena George, who reviewed the state's COVID-19 situation two days ago, today blamed the violation of home quarantine directives for the worsening situation and cautioned against the increased indoor transmission of coronavirus at homes.
Taking a serious note of the situation in Kerala, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on Thursday reviewed the situation and the steps taken to contain the alarming graph of the virus in the southern state.
The home secretary reviewed the COVID-19 situation and the steps taken to contain the spread of the virus in the southern state and gave a number of suggestions, a home ministry official said.
The meeting in which Bhalla took stock of the situation in Kerala also discussed issues related to containment strategy and medical infrastructure, the official added.
Several top officials of the Centre and the state government attended the meeting, which was held through a video-conference.
Amid concerns of rise in cases in Kerala, the central government said the southern state is the only one reporting over 1 lakh active COVID-19 cases, while four states have 10,000 to 1 lakh active cases and 31 states have less than 10,000 active cases.
It noted that 58.4 per cent of the total COVID-19 cases last week were reported from Kerala.
The central government said the months of September and October will be crucial in pandemic management and cautioned that festivals should be celebrated in accordance with COVID-19-appropriate behaviour.
Addressing a media briefing in New Delhi today, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan reiterated that the country is still in the midst of the second wave.
Quoting a recent study by the health department, Kerala Health Minister said 35 per cent of people in the state were found to have been infected with the disease from home.
The present situation is that when one person in the house gets infected, the disease is transmitted to other members also, she said in a statement and urged people to strictly abide by the directives of the government to keep the disease at bay.
The minister said only those who have the required facilities at houses should prefer home quarantine and others should shift to domiciliary COVID-care centres (DCCs).
George advised those placed under home quarantine not to step out of their room and asked all members of the house to wear masks to avoid risk of indoor transmission.
She also released a set of directives to be followed by the people to fight the disease.
Her statement came hours after the Kerala government faced flak from its political opponents and public health experts for its alleged "carelessness" and "unwise" decisions regarding COVID-19 management, which according to them has led to the rise in cases and TPR in the southern state.
The TPR, which was 19.03 per cent on Wednesday, also showed a slight dip today at 18.03 per cent. The last time it had crossed the 19 per cent mark was three months back on May 26 when it was 19.95 per cent.
Attacking the state's ruling CPI(M)-led LDF government, Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs V Muraleedharan attributed this to the "carelessness" of the Left government, which according to him was more focused on celebrating the anniversary of the Moplah riots rather than managing COVID-19.
"Carelessness of the state government was the reason for this," he said and added that the Left government was "more focused on celebrating the anniversary of the Moplah riots".
"That is not the priority. Dealing with COVID-19 should be the priority," he said while addressing the media in New Delhi.
A similar view was expressed by senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, who on Thursday told reporters that the state government has failed to prevent spread of COVID-19 in the state and demanded that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan apologise to the people.
The senior MLA in the state Assembly also alleged that the "carelessness" of the state was the reason behind the rise in COVID-19 cases in Kerala.
Talking to PTI, well-known public health expert Dr S S Lal blamed the absence of a clear-cut COVID management strategy, the keeping of the scientific community away from decision making and the "unwise" decisions taken at the bureaucratic level for the present fast spreading of the disease.
Lal, who unsuccessfully contested in the recent Assembly election on a Congress ticket, also urged the CPI(M)-led government to release the health data related to the virus infection to evaluate the actual situation prevailing in the state.
"The government is hiding all data related to the COVID-19. We are unable to analyse the actual COVID situation in the state due to the unavailability of the data. If we are able to access it, we can figure out the basic facts like which age group is most affected and so on," he said.
In their briefing in New Delhi, ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said vaccines are disease modifying and not disease preventing so it is very important to continue the use of masks even after vaccination.
Bhushan said, "We are still in the midst of the second surge of COVID-19 in our country. The second surge has not yet concluded. It is not over and therefore, we have to maintain all necessary precautions, particularly in light of our experience that after every festival we see a spike."
"The coming months of September and October are crucial for us because we would be celebrating a few festivals. Thus festivals have to be celebrated with Covid-appropriate behaviour," he added.
The government said 41 districts in India were reporting a COVID-19 weekly positivity rate of more than 10 per cent.