The southern Indian state of Kerala, which was praised worldwide in the spring for controlling the spread of Covid-19, reported a record number of new daily infections and deaths on Wednesday.
Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of Kerala, called on citizens to isolate at home after the state recorded more than 5,000 cases for the first time and 20 deaths.
In comparison, by the last week of April, the state had only two dozen active infections and no community transmission. In particular, K K Shailaja, Kerala's Minister of Health, was lauded during the spring for implementing a vigorous test, trace, isolate and support programme.
However, few Indian states are as dependent on migrant workers as Kerala, with remittances sent back from elsewhere in India and abroad accounting for at least 35 per cent of its total income.
On March 25, Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister suddenly placed the country under a draconian two-month lockdown.
This, combined with an economic downturn in the Middle East, meant many labourers returned to Kerala after losing their jobs.
These migrant labourers spearheaded the surge in new Covid-19 infections in the state, as some were unknowingly infected and then spread the virus to family members and neighbours at home.
Initially, testing was limited to only those who displayed symptoms while public health experts say Keralites are also tired of adhering to Covid-19 precautions, such as wearing a N95 mask.
“For the first time the number of cases crossed the 5,000 mark. The increase is a matter of grave concern,” warned Mr Vijayan.
“The home environment would only aid their speedy recovery. This would also lessen the burden on hospitals and would facilitate the treatment of those with symptoms and other diseases.”
India’s public healthcare system is one of the most underfunded and understaffed in the world, with just £1.50 spent per citizen.
A pre-Covid-19 shortage of 600,000 doctors and two million nurses means patients fortunate to be admitted are then receiving limited care.
India has already reported two million new cases in September, a global monthly record, surpassing the 1.9 million infections it recorded in August and its outbreak shows no sign of slowing.
Its death toll has reached 90,000 and 15,000 of those fatalities were reported over the past 13 days.
Concerningly, four healthcare professionals in India’s financial capital of Mumbai and Noida, a satellite city adjacent to New Delhi, have tested positive for Covid-19 for a second time, according to The Lancet. None of the employees had developed antibodies.
Mr Modi is highly unlikely to implement a second national lockdown, however, as it would cause further economic devastation for India’s economy, where 90 per cent of its citizens are employed informally.
During the three months until June end, India's GDP contracted by a record 23.9 per cent while 400 million Indians were pushed further into poverty, according to the International Labour Organisation.
Mr Modi has instead proposed daily lockdowns in districts with large or increasing numbers of infections, so India's wider economic recovery is not impacted.
Ten out of India's 36 states and union territories account for 74 per cent of new cases.
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