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Why it’s important to know the Kerala Model?

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on April 25, 2020 with No Comments

In early March the alarm bells hadn’t started ringing yet in India: as it has witnessed only six confirmed Covid-19 cases, three of them in Kerala. But as we head to last week of April, it has seen close to ????? cases.  While the numbers are mounting in Mumbai, New Delhi; Kerala – a relatively prosperous state on the southern tip of the subcontinent  has started to “flatten the curve”. The world is beginning to acknowledge  “The erala model”.  The number of cases have reduced drastically, that the state had even planned to open the restaurants effective April 20th, but adopted a cautious approach and deferred the decision.

In order to understand  “The Kerala Model”, it is even important to understand the state. The state has a vastly higher literacy rates and skilled workers are the state’s major export and that too mainly the Middle East. Moreover, many students are there in other countries acquiring their education in medicine. Bounties of the nature make it a large tourism hub too.  Its strength made its inhabitants to a greater risk of transmission.

In order to understand the model, it is pertinent to know the health minister KK Shailaja. Now  she holds a daily video conference with her staff. The staff who are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic across the state share their day’s experiences, even the lighter moments and the jokes they cracked. The department has also arranged video meetings for staff working in isolation wards with celebrities for half-an-hour every day. She hasn’t reached there easy. KK Shailaja and Health Secretary Rajan Khobragade when in early January came to know about the virus in Wuhan, they started preparations, convened a Rapid Response Team and started a control room. The first control room was operational on January 24. District Medical Officers were on alert that virus has been reported and chances are that it would come to “Kerala catching a flight”. On January 27, the flight from Wuhan arrived. Many of the passengers were not symptomatic and so they were sent to home quarantine with instructions to inform the state health department  if they develop any symptoms. One student was symptomatic and she was shifted to the Thrissur General Hospital. Her result came on January 30 and she tested positive. Her parents were also quarantined at the hospital. On February 2, came the second case of the Wuhan student from Alappuzha and on February 3, the one from Kasaragod. The three students were in hospitals when they tested positive and hence they didn’t transmit the virus to anyone. The first three confirmed patients in Kerala were among the hundreds of people evacuated by the Indian government from Wuhan and quarantined during early February. However, as feared, the following weeks saw a high number of infections in the state and the confirmed number of cases increased to more than 100 by March 24, when India went for a complete lockdown.  Kerala by then had one-fifth of Indian cases, despite having only 2.5% of India’s population.

Kerala did not stop surveillance at the airports.  Health workers continued testing passengers with thermometers. Despite criticism from opposition, it followed a standard protocol and WHO guidelines as well. Their experience told them that it was not a time to step back and it didn’t. From the very

In the beginning itself we had set Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. In Plan A, the state had identified  medical college, district or general hospital, of which a major portion would be allotted for COVID-19 treatment. More than 300 beds in medical colleges were ready by then. In Plan B, it included Taluk hospitals and non-functioning private hospitals. In Plan C, the idea was to convert most private and government institutions into COVID-19 hospitals. The state was prepared for a community spread too. It had even planned to convert auditoriums and schools into COVID-19 hospitals. In order to address the human resources that would be required, the state collected a list of the human resources, those in the private sector and freshers from medical colleges. Kerala charted out who would be deployed in each phase. Meetings were held with all the stakeholders. It was decided to manage with the capacity of the government team if possible or bring in human resources from the private sector if needed.

The initial strategy was strict quarantine for 28 days. Now that the patient load is reducing, patients who have recovered need to be on 14 more days of quarantine after they are discharged. The wave has reduced. Yes, Kerala has flattened the curve with strict screening, quarantine, isolation and treatment. Kerala has  broken the chain to a great extent – the number of new cases have kept reducing implying that the viral load has become less.

Only one or two new cases are reported now, but at the same time those under treatment are still recovering. The state remains of alert  till last positive case becomes negative and until no new positive cases are reported for a few consecutive weeks. The state of Kerala has led with an example worth a note!


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