Kerala Onam is a make-or-break affair due to viral pandemics

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Kerala Onam: After being hailed as a model in the fight against the epidemic, this year’s Onam celebrations could be a make-or-break moment for the southern state, which is acting as an uncontrolled surge in the Covid-19 cases.

Kerala Onam is a make-or-break affair due to viral pandemics
Kerala Onam is a make-or-break affair due to viral pandemics

The 10-day Onam festival in Kerala ends on August 21 with Thiruvonam. Onam is the largest festival in the state that stretches across religious boundaries and attracts migrant workers from the area home.

In many ways, Onam is also at the beginning of the festive season across India – it lasts until the Christmas / New Year season. Festive demand is always important for the economy, but it is crucial for epidemic-affected markets this year.

After being hailed as a model in the fight against the epidemic, this year’s Onam celebrations could be a make-or-break moment for the southern state, which is acting as an uncontrolled surge in the Covid-19 cases.

Covid-19 cases started on the rise in Kerala during Onam last year, putting an end to the state’s claims of having a successful epidemic. If there is a similar spike this year as well, the situation, at least in terms of medical infrastructure capacity, may be out of control.

1) Onam when Covid-19 infections started on the rise in Kerala last year

Although India imposed a 68-day lockdown on March 25, 2020, to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the outbreak in the early stages was very different in Kerala and the rest of India.

Cases in the rest of India began to rise steadily as sanctions were relaxed. However, Kerala was able to overcome this trend and received much praise for managing the epidemic.

Kerala Onam is a make-or-break affair due to viral pandemics
Normalised values of daily new cases in Kerala and rest of India

On August 30, 2020, the situation changed in Kerala. A comparison of the normalized values ​​of the daily seven-day average of daily new infections on a scale of 0 to 1 (0 minimum and 1 maximum) for Kerala clearly shows that the last week of August saw a sudden increase in the trajectory of the Kerala case in 2020.

The first wave of Covid-19, after its launch in Kerala, took longer to slow down than in other parts of the country. . The state has two rounds of elections, local body elections in December and assembly elections in April.

2) Enthusiastic encouragement for mobility may have played a role in the 2020 surge and it looks like it is happening again

As festivals are important for businesses, governments are always under pressure to relax restrictions. Kerala is no exception. Last year, the state government eased restrictions before Onam — for example, allowing people to dine in restaurants. This year too the government has announced relaxations ahead of Eid and Onam.

The impact is evident in the Google Mobility Index data for the state, which shows a significant increase in Onam last year. Trends in mobility are of particular interest in retail companies and transit stations, which can capture congestion in markets and inbound travel to the state.

Kerala Onam is a make-or-break affair due to viral pandemics
The impact of this is evident in data from Google mobility indices for the state, which show a sharp rise around Onam last year.

Although the Covid-19 situation is much worse, it looks like mobility indicators have risen once again before Onam this year. In fact, Kerala is registering more cases than the rest of the country.

The increase in mobility is similar to the increase in Covid-19 cases in the state last year and now. Festive encouragement for calm in 2020 may have played a role and it looks like it is happening again.

3) Why is the Kerala experience important to the rest of the world?

To be sure, the medical infrastructure of Kerala has not collapsed due to the epidemic, which was seen in most parts of the country during the second wave of the epidemic.

Daily new cases and positivity rates, even though they are still high, have dropped from their peak levels in Kerala.

Why is the current situation in Kerala important to other parts of the country? One, Onam is the first of the upcoming festivals, all of which are crucial to reviving consumer demand in the economy.

The inclination of the third wave of the epidemic also suppressed consumer and business sentiment and significantly damaged the country’s economic prospects.

The first litmus test will be whether Kerala’s Covid-19 cases will increase after the festival and whether restoration of pre-pandemic mobility levels will trigger the third wave.

Despite the high number of cases, Kerala has emerged as one of the best performers in terms of vaccination. As of August 19, 2021, it had fully vaccinated 19.3% of its adult population and at least one dose had been given to another 33.4%.

In addition to providing individual immunity, vaccines are also expected to reduce the rate of infections once the critical threshold is exceeded.

If the number of cases in Kerala increases despite significant vaccinations, it may be worse in other states where vaccine levels are lower. B

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