Episode 110: Kerala, and the Hazards of Declaring Success & Failure

Rukmini S
1 min readMar 1, 2021

Hello and welcome to The Moving Curve. I’m Rukmini, a data journalist based in Chennai. Two nights a week on this mini-cast, I consider one question around the novel coronavirus epidemic in India. Tonight I’m asking this one — why did Kerala not see a September peak and decline the way the rest of the country did?

A piece I did for IndiaSpend on this is here.

An early interview with KK Shailaja by Nidheesh MK is here.

A story about Kerala’s contact tracing maps is here.

Ultimately, whether Kerala succeeded or failed says as much about Kerala as it does about the rest of the country. Because if its late surge is a result of better containment earlier, that could mean that places reporting fewer cases now just did a worse job earlier — the virus ran amok early on and pushed them closer to herd immunity in places like Maharashtra. This would also then mean that India’s September peak and decline was not a result of successful mitigation, but rather a result of a runaway epidemic and the resulting immunity, which is something that Manoj Murhekar, director of the ICMR’s National Institute of Epidemiology, and lead investigator of the ICMR’s national sero-surveys, suggested to me.

But here’s the thing — our understanding of herd immunity could be petty flawed too. More on that in the next episode.

Thank you for listening. This episode was edited by Anand Krishnamoorthi. On the next episode — a new question.

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