The number of Covid cases in Kerala jumped nearly 30 per cent over the past 24 hours to over 31,000 as the state government flagged an 'Onam spike'. The state recorded 215 deaths along with a test positivity rate of 19.03 per cent.
The state on Wednesday reported 31,445 fresh cases, pushing its total infection count to 38,83,429 and fatalities to 19,972.
Ernakulam district recorded the highest number with 4,048 cases, followed by Thrissur (3,865), Kozhikode (3,680), Malappuram (3,502), Palakkad (2,562), Kollam (2,479), Kottayam (2,050), Kannur (1,930) Alappuzha (1,874), Thiruvananthapuram (1,700), Idukki (1,166) Pathanamthitta (1,008) and Wayanad (962), a government release said.
These numbers came a day after Kerala Health Minister Veena George called for "increased vigil" over the next four weeks as exposure at public gatherings during Onam season is expected to show up in the next 7-10 days, especially with the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant.
Kerala celebrated Onam on August 21.
Citing Kerala's example, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Wednesday cautioned other states about the upcoming festival season, advising them to undertake all possible public health measures to curb infections.
Union Minister and BJP leader V Muralidharan on Wednesday attacked Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, by tweeting: "Alarming COVID-19 situation in Kerala, @vijayanpinarayi has clearly failed to protect people's lives...Kerala alone recorded 24,296 cases & 173 deaths yesterday. @vijayanpinarayi's illogical strategy & motivated media propaganda costing dearly the nation."
The BJP also targeted the state's new Health Minister, mocking her as "newsreader-turned-minister". Ms George is a former journalist, a PTI report said. BJP spokesperson Tom Vadakkan said the state government was busy covering up the alleged crisis.
"Especially the newsreader-turned-health minister is busy reading the wrong script and spreading disinformation that everything is hunky-dory in Kerala," he said, according to a PTI report.
Following the festivities, medical experts had predicted the state's TPR to go beyond 20 per cent and the number of infections to rise. Since July 27, after Bakrid celebrations, during which restrictions were relaxed for a few days, Kerala has been reporting more than or close to 20,000 cases almost every day.
Health economist Rijo M John, who had earlier said Kerala's high numbers were due to better testing, has now pointed out that daily testing in the state had come down by 35 per cent over the past two weeks.
The state is now firming up plans to vaccinate everyone above 18 years by the end of September.
There has, however, been no major increase in ICU occupancy and hospitalisation despite the surge in the number of new cases in the state. Its case fatality rate remains one of the lowest in the country at 0.5 per cent.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said that only cases that show symptoms will be tested in high-vaccination districts like Pathanamthitta while testing is to be increased in other districts even as Kerala beefs up preparations for a possible third Covid wave.
Of the new cases reported on Wednesday, 123 were health workers, 138 from outside the state, and 29,608 infected through contact, with the source of contact not being clear in 1,576 cases, the government release said.
There are currently 4,70,860 people under surveillance in various districts of Kerala. Of these, 4,44,278 are at home or institutional quarantine and 26,582 in hospitals.