04/20/2020, 14.48
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Kerala's success in the fight against Covid-19

by Biju Veticad

At present in the state there are 140 positive Covid-19 cases for a total of 399 since recording began and three deaths. In India, there are 17265 positive cases and 543 deaths to date; half of the country has not yet been affected by the pandemic. The secrets of success: readiness to deal with problems; a strong experience of past epidemics; close collaboration between nearly 300 thousand volunteers and the government; no struggle between central government and municipal and village authorities.

Changanacherry (AsiaNews) - The state of Kerala (in south-west India) has been recognized as having implemented best practices in the fight against coronavirus. This includes the experience of past epidemics, a close collaboration between volunteers and government, between central government and municipal and village authorities. To date, official figures in India say that there are 17265 positive cases and 543 deaths; half of the country has not yet been affected by the pandemic. But the most acute problem is that the quarantine imposed at midnight on March 24 across the country, which has created a mass of over 120 million people without work, without food, without housing. Here too, Kerala has distinguished itself for efficiency and hospitality. Below we publish an extensive story from the reality on the ground shared with our readers by a voluntary medical operator, who has close ties with Italy.

On March 2nd I had to attend a meeting where an Italian guest from Delhi participated at a Cultural Centre in my town at Changanacherry in Kerala.  I was part of organizing the meeting for a group of University students.  On the next day, one of the students who participated the event had fever and during those days, the news from Italy had been continuously on our televisions.  Within the span of few hours I was contacted by the District Medical Office in Kottayam to know the details of the meeting and the list of all participants.  A medical telecall was followed instantly from the Town Hosptial Inspector who asked me to remain in quarantine for 14 days at my home.   The reason is as simple as our Italian guest had the visit of other two Italians in New Delhi prior to his arrival in Kerala.  All this happened on 3rd March 2020.

Kerala Government announced a statewise lockedown on 23rd March while India Government announced countrywide lockedown on 24th March.  The actions from the state government, during all these Covid period preceeded to the actions of Central Government.    Need to say, the keen effort from the Kerala state government, it’s round the clock coordination between the local governments (Comune, Province, Prefetture) are meticulously organized by the Health Ministry headed by Prof.ssa Shylaja.    Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan proves once again that during crises, he himself can control the steering of the Government. His daily press meet at 18.00 proves the hard work of the whole team of the Government.  Each Minister of the Government is assigned to lead the situations in each district (Provincia) in Kerala.  Necessary actions for the financial packages were too declared much ahead to that of Prime Minister. 

What does that make Kerala to stand first in Preventing Covid 19?

As on date, there are 140 existing positive cases of Covid 19 and there had been a total number of 399 cases so far and three deaths.  Almost 79000 persons are under observation including 526 in hospitals.   The first three cases of Covid 19 in India were reported in Kerala and were 3 students who returned from Wuhan.  Since then the state was higly on alert.  But, the flow of patients steadily increased by the mid of February when a family returned to Kerala from Italy.  Since then the Keralites who returned from Gulf countries and the Europe were the main transporters of this viral disease.

From the route map to Web Application

Kerala, having prior experience of Nipah virus, acts with a systematic way once the disease is identified in a person.  It starts from preparing the route map of the patients:  The preparation of the route map is done very systematically and in detail.  Every nook and corner where the patient has travelled will be identified and all the persons met or casually happened to be there will be identified through the help of counsellors of local government, health workers and that of Police department.  This will be published to all the concerned.  Here the ‘’so called privacy’ is kept a part for the sake of the society.   This kind of identification, isolation and the hospitalization is now enhanced through a web application.  This app connects all those who are involved in fighting against Covid 19, from the Doctor to the Ambulance driver.  Doctor can identify where ICU ventilators are free or the driver can understand on real time where the isolation bed is free in the nearest place.


Conversion of train wagons, Hotels, Hostels, Resorts, House Boats to Isolation beds

Construction of hospitals in 10 days like in China or in Milan may not be possible in India.  Moreover, the population size also very relevant in case of an outbreak beyond Government’s control.  The density of population in Kerala is very high (860 persons in Sq. Km). To fight against the non-adequacy of the available hospital beds, the Government immediately thought of converting unutilized train wagons into isolation rooms.  It had been already implemented to a quiet good numbers beds.  Then, students hostels of each district and provinces were identified and controlled by the local Health inspectors and calculated the total capacity of convertible isolation beds.  Hotels and Resorts near to the Hospitals are also being identified for the same purpose.  Though, currently only Government Hospitals are being used for the Covid Assitance, Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Conference, since the very outbreak of the disease, had offered all the hospitals run by Catholic Management for the eventual hospitalization of patients.

How possible is the coordination of Volunteers in District Head Quarters or Local Government Offices?

If beurocracy that may prevent access of volunteers for the assistance to the public sector in different countries, Kerala Government has always proved that it is possible and indeed their services are as precious as that of expert health assistants.  During the past two flood disasters (occurred in 2018 and 2019 monsoons in Kerala), it was the help of tech-savvies of different district head quarters, that helped the whole processing of identification, rescue and the relocation of the flooded people.  In the same manner, the Government of Kerala formed immediately a Social Volunteer Force (Sanndhasena) which saw a registration of 292851 people aged between 18 to 65 (mostly between 20 to 50).    The whole group is enforced in 5 different activities and coordinated by the Local Self Governments and by the District Head Quarters.  These volunteers are the driving force of “Community Kitchens” who distribute daily meals to the aged persons and those of real in need during the locked down period.

Stay Where You Are !!!

A big hurdle to overcome is the repatriation of workers from North India, who are present in the state territory.  As the Prime Minister announced the countrywide lockdown on 24th March, thousands and thousands of migrant labourers were stranded away in different cities of India.   While migrant labourers are being forced to leave different cities in North India, the Kerala government took proactive steps to ensure the welfare of them.  In Kerala, very catiously, these migrant people from West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar etc were called “ Guest Workers” and not by their origin.  A dignity had been granted to them though different groups among these workers protested to return back to their own state.  Until the train conveyance is resumed, these workers will continue to stay over in different cities of Kerala, but with the whole support of the government from the food to the common televisions, indoor games etc.

Precautions to be continued

Kerala has the highest migrant flow from India.  Kerala migrants are mostly employed in GCC countries, United States, Europe, Canada, Australia etc. (Need to acknowledge the flow of remittance to Kerala which stands as one of the main pillars of financial growth of the state).  As the whole world is locked down, a good number of Keralites are held up in different countries (mostly in Gulf countries).  Kerala state government is insisting to the Central Government to bring back all Keralites who wish to return to to homestate.  Health sector is already advanced with the preparation to receive all Keralites who expected to arrive through four International Airports.  All will be kept in quarantine for 14 days either at own house or at Public  Healthcare centres. 

Many believe that Kerala already flattened the curve where as the infection of the virus is still rising in other Indian states.  However, according to the Health Minister Mrs. Shylaja, precautions have to be continued further ahead.  Yesterday, Secretary to the Health Ministry of India, commented that Kerala is a model to other states in way of execution plan against the outbreak of the virus as well as the treatment extended to those who have been tested positive. The public health care system of Kerala from the Primary Health care centres in the Local Government to the Taluk Hospitals to the Medical Colleges, follow very specific protocol to offer the support for creating awareness, prevention and cure against Covid 19.  Need to salute not only our stronghold Health workers, but also the Policemen who at 30-35 degree Celsius make sure that law and order is being rightly implemented.

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