Twenty-twenty began with growing tensions between the United States and Iraq, and in the next two months, the human race was still facing one of its greatest threats. As Coronavirus spreads around the world, more and more people were looking for examples of regions that managed the pandemic in a controlled manner.
Kerala is known as God’s own country and is no stranger to deadly diseases or natural calamities. The South Indian state and its government’s efforts have caught the eye of the liberal masses for their ability to make spontaneous decisions and to have a logical approach to tackling problems.
Kerala was the first country in India to report the COVID-19 case and has since surprised other governments by its actions. As the virus spreads across the planet, more people have begun to be tested positive, but the number of infections in Kerala has remained nominal.
Almost two months after the first case, states like Maharashtra have struggled to contain the pandemic while Kerala still held a reign of the situation. How did Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his government approach this problem of curbing the spread of the virus? Let us find out.
From facing floods year after year to fighting the Nipah virus, the state of Kerala has gone through it all. This ability to bounce back from adversity has become associated with the region and seems to be doing the same thing with COVID-19, too.
With a population of over 35.4 million, Kerala remains one of the most densely populated regions on the planet. A spread in such an area would not just affect the millions living in the state but also the hundreds of millions across the world. As soon as the second case was reported in Kerala, the state signaled a medical emergency on February 3.
Just as the Coronavirus spread across Kerala and India, countries who had been infected in the beginning began revealing steps to stop the spread. One of the key solutions that were implemented by Kerala was stepping up the screening at all airports. This was done to check the condition of international passengers and if they were carrying the virus strain.
Dr. Ranjan Khobragade, the Kerala Health Secretary has become a popular figure during these trying times for his honest portrayals of the situation. He had said:
“Those who had come three months prior to when screening actually began, were traced and tested. Furthermore, without disclosing their identity, their travel history within the province was advertised, so people from those areas come forward for testing and take precautions.”
Since the screenings started, almost 40,000 people have been kept under surveillance. The state currently has 194 confirmed cases of COVID-19, while the national total is close to the 942 mark. Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala, urged users to ‘break the chain’ and stop the spread of the virus. Mr. Vijayan has been active on Twitter and other social media platforms, telling people to stay indoors and stay calm.
Kerala’s framework for tackling the virus was quickly adopted by other states as the number of cases started spiking upwards. The state had also gone under a self-imposed lockdown till March 31st to ensure all citizens stay at home and practice ‘social distancing’. This was extended when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a countrywide curfew till April 15. The Kerala government’s efforts to spread awareness about the virus also helped its citizens to prepare for the long haul inside their homes.
The Pinarayi Vijayan government received plaudits when it decided to provide mid day meals to 375,000 students even when the schools were shut down. To help in making the large batches of food, the state received help from women’s self-help group called Kudambashree. According to officials, the government was out to ensure that normal life was not completely shattered during the time of ‘social distancing’.
Kerala also found a novel way to manufacture more face masks for doctors on the front-lines: employing prisoners to make them. The State Medical Association also deployed multiple batches of doctors to assist doctors in district capitals. Khobragade reported that the prisoners were able to manufacture over 6000 maskers and thousands of liters of the dispenser.
As the need for testing grew in the state, Kerala came up with another innovative idea to help increase the count. A few major hospitals in the state it will soon be assisted by robots who will help in scanning the patients and administering the COVID-19 test. To the surprise of many, two robots were released to distribute both sanitize and masks to the people of Kochi, the financial capital of Kerala.
The Kerala government was currently in the middle of managing the national curfew imposed since March 25. Police have been deployed on the roads to ensure no citizen steps out of their houses for unnecessary purposes. They have been given the authority to take strict action against anyone who flouts the rules during the Coronavirus lockdown. Chief Minister Vijayan has reassured his people that measures will be made to provide them with essential items at all times.
Mr Vijayan during a conference on Thursday also added that the state was planning to raise a volunteer base that will be almost two lack strong. They will be tasked with supporting the government in dealing with the pandemic. The CPI[M] government has also offered to recharge the mobile phones of those under observation so that they can keep in touch with their loved ones.
As the nation heads into the seventh day of the quarantine, it joins many others in the quest to defeat the Coronavirus. Many of the affected countries have provided detailed information on how to deal with the pandemic, out of which Kerala’s ideology of ‘breaking the chain’ has been accepted by many.
Only time will now tell how the world gets through this but a couple of things are certain and necessary: wash your hands, maintain a safe distance from people if you are stepping out and, of course, break the chain by staying at home.