The Kerala government will impose a complete lockdown in the state on July 31 and August 1 in view of the sharp increase in Covid-19 cases, ANI reported on Thursday.

Kerala reported 22,056 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, taking the tally to 33,27,301 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. The state’s positivity rate, which is the percentage of people who test positive for the virus out of those who have been tested overall, was at 11.2%. Kerala’s toll rose to 16,457 with 131 more deaths.

The state accounted for more than 50% of the 43,509 cases that India recorded on Thursday morning.

“Kerala with an active case load of 1.54 lakh is contributing 37.1% of the total active cases in the country, with a growth rate of 1.41 in the last 7 days,” the Union health ministry said. “Average daily cases being reported in the state are above 17,443. The state has also reported a high case positivity of 12.93% cumulatively and 11.97% weekly. Six districts are reporting more than 10% weekly positivity.”

In view of this rise in cases, the Centre is sending a six-member team to the state to help with Covid-19 management. The team will be led by the director of the National Centre for Disease Control, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said.

The team will reach Kerala on Friday. “The team shall work closely with the state health departments, take a stock of on ground situation and recommend necessary public health interventions to contain the large number of cases being reported by the state,” the Union health ministry said.

In Kerala, 44.4% of the population has Covid-19 antibodies, according to the fourth countrywide sero survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research. This is the lowest among the states included in the survey.

Dr Anish, a member of Kerala’s Covid expert committee, said the state was 23 percentage points behind the threshold for herd immunity, ANI reported. “One way of protecting this 23% is massive vaccination at a very high rate as compared to other parts of India,” he told the news agency. “The Centre should give larger amount of vaccines to Kerala.”

Kerala was under a complete lockdown last weekend too. Only shops selling essentials were allowed to open and there were restrictions on movement, except for emergency purposes.

Despite the worsening Covid-19 situation, the Kerala government had decided to relax certain restrictions for three days from July 18 in view of Eid-al-Adha, or Bakrid.

The Supreme Court had criticised this decision. “To give in to pressure groups so that the citizenry of India is then laid bare to a nationwide pandemic discloses a sordid state of affairs,” the court had observed. However, it did not cancel the government’s order to ease the lockdown.