Kerala on Friday recorded more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases for the fourth consecutive day, PTI reported. The toll rose by 116 to 16,701.

With 20,772 cases, Kerala’s tally rose to 33,70,137 since the pandemic broke out last year. The state’s test positivity rate, which is the percentage of people who test positive for the virus out of those who have been tested overall, jumped to 13.61%.

The state has reporting the highest number of cases in India for the past few weeks. On Thursday, Kerala alone accounted for nearly half of the country’s total count of 44,230 infections.

A central team of health officials reached the state late on Friday evening to take stock of the pandemic situation, ANI reported.

SK Singh, the Director of National Centre for Disease Control, said that they will hold discussions with the state government. “There are many concerns...rise in positivity rate is one,” he said. “Cases are declining everywhere but transmission is continuing in Kerala.”

Meanwhile, on Friday, the Kerala government announced a Rs 5,650 crore package for helping out small traders, industries and farmers hit hard by the economic crisis due to Covid-19, The Hindu reported.

Kerala not a concern for rest of India, says expert

Despite a surge in infections in Kerala, top virologist Gagandeep Kang on Thursday said that there was not much reason to worry for the rest of the country, The Wire reported.

In an interview to the website, Kang attributed the rise in cases in Kerala to the state’s sero-positivity. The fourth countrywide serological survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research has shown that Kerala has the lowest seroprevalence of 44.4% among all states.

Serological surveys reveal how many people have antibodies against an infection. The percentage of a population that have antibodies against an infectious agent is called seroprevalence, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The serorevalence number means that more than 50% of Kerala’s population is still susceptible to the virus.

Kang also noted that Kerala was conducting higher number of tests to detect the virus. On July 28, Kang said that Kerala conducted 1.96 lakh tests, while West Bengal, which has a much larger population, conducted only about 50,000 tests.

The virologist, however, warned that Kerala needs to bring down its R-value which currently stands at 1.11, an analysis by the Institute of Mathematical Sciences showed on Thursday.

R-number measures how many people are being infected by one Covid-positive person on an average. For instance, a value between 0.7 and 0.9 means that every 10 Covid-positive people will pass on the infection to seven to nine others.

The number of infections keeps rising if the R value is more than 1. If the value declines, the infection will eventually stop spreading because there will not be enough new cases for the outbreak to continue.