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Kerala’s robust and efficient approach against COVID-19 sees impressive success

The state of Kerala, has dropped 30 percent in number of new coronavirus cases in the first week of April compared to the week before, despite being the first state in India to report a coronavirus case in late January.

The success of the Communist state’s government can be attributed to a number of their methods which has just seen just two deaths and the highest percentage of positive patient recoveries in the country. Even as of yesterday, the number of cases has been dropping, yet they have conducted over 13,000 tests – which is more than some states that have half the population as that of Kerala.  

However, Kerala’s chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, warned against complacency following the success across the state and insisted that the strict measures should not be relaxed yet.

“One thing is clear — at no point can the state ease its alertness against the virus. The examples from all over the world underscore that one can’t predict the viral attack. Hence, the state will continue its strict attitude for containing the virus,” he said.

Kerala’s health minister, K.K. Shailaja, also cautioned the pandemic is not over in Kerala. “We hoped for the best but planned for the worst. Now, the curve has flattened, but we cannot predict what will happen next week,” she said.   

Kerala’s methods include:

- Asking the population medical and travel history questions

- Providing thousands of shelters for migrant workers stranded by the nationwide curfews

- Aggressive testing

- Rigorous contact tracing

- Longer quarantine practice

- Distribution of cooked meals to those in need

Over 30,000 health workers across the state have been screened and benefitted from the robust measures. The model utilised in Kerala could prove instrumental in curbing the upward surge of coronavirus cases across the rest of India.

However, challenges such as high population densities and poor healthcare facilities and shortage of workers may make it difficult to implement nationwide.

Kerala’s “prompt response” can be credited to its past “experience and investment” which includes efficient district monitoring and community engagement, said World Health Organisation’s India representative, Henk Bekedam.

Virologist and infectious disease expert, Shahid Jameel, commended the response by Kerala as “both strict and humane” and insisted “Aggressive testing, isolating, tracing and treating — those are ways of containing an outbreak.”

Kerala has dealt with the pandemic laudably, despite the high number of foreign arrivals. Airport screening have been tightened and travellers from over the world, including the coronavirus hotspots of Iran and South Korea have been and are quarantined and treated efficiently.  

A British National who was admitted with severe coronavirus symptoms was discharged after treatment in Ernakulam Government Medical College.

Furthermore, even when a local Italian couple did not report to the health officials, they were traced and all those in contact with them and then tested and quarantined. The “excellent treatment” and confidence instilled by the medical staff to the couple, despite backlash on social media for their actions is admirable, said one of Robin Thomas, the son-in-law of the couple. Counsellors also consulted the couple to ensure they overcame the criticism and stigma.

Kerala’s strong healthcare system and investment into facilities such as deploying rapid testing kits, liaising with service providers to increase network capacity for Internet at homes and promising two months of advance pension, has proved influential in the success against the pandemic. 

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