When the scale of the coronavirus outbreak reached global levels, the Kerala Government declared high alert from the 4th to the 8th of February. The state conducted mock drills in hospitals and built an extensive system of checks in place. From the 8th of March, after reports of COVID-19 cases were confirmed the state went back into high alert.
Extensive monitoring to contain the outbreak
Kerala has a well-developed health care system. There are two Primary Health Centers, which are usually the first point of contact, for every three villages. Forty beds were identified in public hospitals, which could be quickly converted into isolation wards. After the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the State, the government ensured that social distancing measures would be put in place. They identified those who would be carriers and isolated them and the people who they would have come in contact with. There have been random screenings that have been taking place at railway stations and bus stops, and passengers arriving from affected countries were being screened. The government ensured constant monitoring measures were in place both at the state level and the panchayat level. The government has identified 24 points from where people can enter the state. It has set up medical-checkup camps at these points to monitor those entering into the state, both by rail and by road. “Each team comprises a senior police official (DySP), a paramedical staff and a local volunteer. There are such multiple teams at various border points. They will monitor every vehicle and record the temperature, and other details of the passengers” a senior police officer was quoted saying in the Deccan Herald. The CM has also said that the KSRTC system will be disinfected as they are high-risk.
Home delivery of Mid-day meals
The government has also directed officials to home deliver food and essential commodities to families who are under observation or have been quarantined. The government has also directed that up to the eighth standard all schools must remain shut. As the children till class eighth will miss their mid-day meal due to the closure of the school, the government has made arrangements to ensure that the meal is delivered to them.
“Break the Chain” campaign, home visits
The State launched a mass campaign called ‘Break the Chain.’ The campaign is a handwashing campaign to help ‘break the chain’ of COVID-19 affecting the state. The aim of the campaign is to stress the need for personal hygiene for the self and the community, according to Health Minister K. K. Shailaja.
The Government is ensuring that the quarantine efforts do not affect the population adversely. The Government has ensured that the quality and availability of broadband internet services are improved so that those who are taking the ‘work from home’ do not suffer. “We have been keeping surveillance on home quarantined persons through mobile tracking. But we found that some people are not following the instructions. So, we have decided to monitor them through house visits and brief them about the risks of breaking the home quarantine instructions. A team consisting of a health worker, police official, and health volunteer will visit every home where persons are quarantined and verify their status,” said Shailaja Teacher and stated that the government will be recruiting and training health volunteers for the same. The state has also mandated a twenty-eight day quarantine period for those returning from affected countries even though the national guidelines are fourteen.
Hotlines, youtube channels, and apps for information and counseling
The government did not only take care of the physical needs of those who were quarantined but also of their mental health. “A live-counseling hotline is being used to provide stress relief to the affected people. The mental health division is in constant contact with patients and giving them good psychological support. That itself plays a big part in the recovery process” sad Dr. Amar Fetle, who is in charge of the anti-nCoV task force in the state.
The State government has also come out with various methods to ensure that information about the virus is disseminated to the public. The government has launched a YouTube channel for the public. This will update them on the health measures that they should be taking to be safe and inform them of the state of the virus in Kerala. Further, the government has developed an app called GoK Direct which shares information about the virus and the outbreak. If one does not have an Android or an iOS, the information will be sent through SMS. The Kerala government is taking these steps to combat fake news and the rumor mills that are contributing to the panic. The state has been taking fake news cases very seriously and arrested three people for engaging in it. The Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan is also using his twitter account to update the people about the steps the government is taking to control the situation.
The communist government in Kerala has been handling the outbreak of the virus remarkably and seems to have ensured safety measures are in place if it amplifies further. The outbreak of the virus could have been much worse. Kerala has 2.5 million people from the state working in over 124 cities, many tourists from affected countries have visited Kerala without screening, and multiple students were studying in Wuhan and other Chinese cities. The virus could have easily spread far and wide had the state not taken serious measures to ensure that the virus was contained.