May 18, 2021

Data | COVID-19 resurges in Kerala as migrants return, testing rate drops


On Tuesday, Kerala recorded 608 new COVID-19 cases, the highest single-day spike since its first case on January 30. After the initial surge in March and April, the State successfully brought down the new cases to zero on many days in May.

Kerala increased its testing rates by a high margin in the initial months of the pandemic, a proven ploy to tackle the disease. However, after the economy opened up and migrants from abroad and other States started to return, the State was not able to test enough relative to its outbreak despite a significant increase in tests. Cases through local transmission (contacts of imported ones) have lately surged, a definite cause for concern for the State.

Cases surge

Kerala recorded more than 300 new cases (grey bar, left axis) on all days in the past week. The share of total tests that were positive — (blue line, right axis) also slightly increased to 2.1% on July 14 from 1.2% two months ago. However, it is still far below the national average of 7.5%.

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Testing rate dips

The number of tests tripled in the State in the last fortnight (from around 6,000 average tests to around 18,000). But due to a sudden surge in cases, the State is still not testing relative to the size of its outbreak.

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Migrants back home

The sudden rise in cases can be attributed directly to the fact that migrants flocked to the State from abroad and other States, especially by air, after mid-June.

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Local transmission spikes

More worrying is the massive surge in local cases recently. Until July 6, more than 75% of Kerala’s new cases (grey bar, left axis) were imported from outside the State. However, in the last one week, the share of local cases or contacts who turned positive rose to more than 50%.

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