Other states must follow the Kerala model to get on top of coronavirus
In a sharp contrast to almost total failure of other states to provide shelter and succour to migrant labourers, Kerala has succeeded in creating a model in this regard, which other states must follow. What is admirable about the Kerala model is that the state has managed to keep the COVID-19 cases under tight control and also retained most of the migrant labourers who were rendered jobless in the lockdown. It is noteworthy that Kerala was the state where the first coronavirus case in India came; one of the students who were repatriated from Wuhan, China, which was the epicentre of the deadly virus, was found infected on arrival on January 30. After that, cases surged in the state, which topped the list of states with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in early March. But the Kerala government erected its defences also early and did an outstanding work to contain the spread of the virus. The result is that as of May 17, the state stands at number 17 position among states, with only 587 confirmed cases, of whom 495 have recovered. The state has recorded just four deaths.
Though it sounds improper to talk about credit with respect to epidemics, it remains a fact that one of the advantages the Kerala government enjoyed was its experience of handling the Nipah virus in 2018 and 2019. This experience helped the state in drawing and sustaining a strategy to take on the coronavirus. The state supplemented it with a slew of welfare measures, like advance pensions, home delivery of meals for children, succour to migrant labourers which prevented their exodus which other states witnessed. The migrant labourers were provided accommodation and free meals. Kerala is the only state that is providing migrant labourers the ethnic meals they are used to eating. There is a dedicated helpline with executives who can speak the different languages of the migrant labourers to address their grievances. The state government is also paying a minimum amount for the mobile phone service to the migrant workers, so they can talk to their families in their native states.
Kerala’s surveillance was more effective than it has been in most states. The state has placed over 1.8 lakh people in home quarantine, but kept them under strict observation. Their condition was regularly checked through telephonic calls and all those experiencing any of the symptoms associated with the virus were rushed to health care facilities. Early detection helped prevent complications and save lives. While most states in the country preferred to test only those with symptoms, Kerala initially resorted to not only screening all those returning from China but also putting them under strict quarantine for 28 days instead of 14 days followed elsewhere in the country. The state put focus on contact tracing, quarantining and infection control.
Unlike most states, Kerala has an excellent public health infrastructure that has its feet as well as eyes and ears on the ground. The state has put a system in place for recording all cases of diseases under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme that helps in detecting disease trends and preventing outbreaks.
There is no doubt that Kerala has led the country in fighting the coronavirus. The state’s model of handling the twin crises – the pandemic and the tragic migrant exodus – needs to be followed by other states. With just 0.61 percent death rate due to COVID-19 as against the national average of 3.15 percent, Kerala has also recorded over 84 percent recovery cases. Most recent cases are those returning from other states or countries. Every state must enforce a solid and effective monitoring of patients under quarantine as Kerala did. Kerala has also been at the forefront in training doctors in critical care. Among the most important pillars of the Kerala government’s strategy was also a transparent interaction of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan with the media on a daily basis. Unlike some states where the government provides very sketchy information about the coronavirus cases and forbids high administrative and health officials to reveal any information to the media, the Kerala government provided the newspapers and TV channels detailed information in order to keep people of the state fully informed, alert and engaged.