In this blog, we are going to have a look at perhaps the most noteworthy, path showing and successful Indian Model to tackle the COVID-19 Pandemic ie. Kerala Model.
The first Coronavirus Case which emerged in India was in Kerala Only, on 31st January 2020. It was a Medical Student, who had returned back home from the Wuhan Province of China, which is the Region in which the COVID-19 Outbreak occurred. Fast forward 3 months and we are looking at how effectively Kerala has been able to restrict the threat of the Pandemic.
There are various features of the aforementioned Model, let’s go through them one by one.
- Prior Experience in Dealing with Outbreaks
In 2018, Kerala had dealt with the outbreak of the Nipah Virus. Nipah is a brain-damaging virus, which originated in bats and transferred to humans ( You must have heard about similar speculation regarding Coronavirus too, but till it’s not proven so don’t forward this information to others.) Also please don’t forward any myths regarding COVID-19, to know more click here.
WHO called Kerala’s Handling of Nipah a “Success story” as it was able to control the potential disaster. To know more Click Here.
Nipah Virus also didn’t have any vaccine nor treatment, hence from previous experience, in the case of COVID-19, the strategy of case isolation and case isolation along with an alert community surveillance system was put in place in the Kerala Model.
Kerala has been able to overcome two successive devastating floods which created enormous health-related challenges and at the same time fought against deadly Nipah Virus attack, Kyasanur Forest Disease, bird flu (avian influenza) and now the COVID-19 Pandemic. It has emerged out of all these with flying colours.
- Proactive Leadership
On the orders of Kerala’s Health Minister, KK Shailaja( she is fondly known as “Coronavirus Slayer” for efficint handling of the Pandemic) , the screening of Passengers at International Airports began as early as in January. Samples of the Passengers showing symptoms were taken and the samples were tested in National Institute of Virology, the Passengers meanwhile were kept in isolation.
On March 11, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced lockdown, hence closing educational institutions, advising the public against visiting places the worship. He also made several other efforts to ease the public’s fears and build trust in the government- these included deploying stricter and longer isolation of 28 days than the national norm of 14 days, holding daily media briefings, ensuring food delivery to children reliant on mid-day meals, providing 2 months pension in advance and setting up a mental health helpline.
The state government also ensured that the quarantine is properly performed by the suspected patients with the help of GPS Tracking and neighbourhood watch initiatives.
Also, few pious people who were praying in groups despite the social distancing directions were even arrested.
Another important step was setting up communication channels to dispel fake news. The social media wings of the police and health department of the State are conducting counter campaigns against fake news using scientific data and a strong public vigil on fake news is encouraged.
The State Government had announced a comprehensive economic relief package for its citizens, even before the National Lockdown had been announced.
Another commendable step was treatment of migrant labourers who were given free accommodation and food, and urged to wait in place. They were given all the necessary information in their native language to provide them effective communication and increasing their trust.
- Strong and Decentralised Health Care System
Kerala under its various governments has built a strong government-funded primary health care system in the last few decades. The State has allowed private participation in healthcare without losing the focus on the primary priorities. Kerala’s healthcare system is, in fact, highly privatised, with a healthy division of labour between the public and private sectors.
Apart from hospitals, Kerala has a wide network of primary health centres which function as the first level of contact with the population.
As mentioned earlier, The isolation period in Kerala is of 28 days. In the isolation wards, the admitted patients are receiving their choice of meals, access to wi-fi and counselling sessions, according to the State Health Secretary. Multiple call centres are also opened to keep check on mental health of suspected patients.
Another step taken by the government is opening of multiple call centres to keep check on the mental health of those who are home quarantined.
On March 15, the health department launched a “break the chain” (a mass handwashing campaign) to encourage hand sanitising among people to prevent the spread of the virus, This campaign has been very successful.
- Social Sector Development
It is the major goal of the “Kerala Model of Development“, which was initiated in the 1970s. This Model gave major emphasis to development in health and education, and hence laying strong foundation for sustained long run development, which is now paying dividends.
There have been several successful results of this model, which include –
- Literacy rate of 94%, highest in India, as per 2011 census data
- More empowered women
- Vibrant Civil Society
- Declining birth rate
- High life expectancy
- High level of awareness among the public
- Low mortality rate
These factors ensured that the State’s response to COVID-19 was based on public participation and not a forced one.
Due to the Social Sector development, the state is enriched with an army of skilful population and a large pool of medics and paramedics, which are integral to a well functioning health sector.
Another Masterclass worth mentioning is, Kudumbashree, a poverty eradication and women empowerment programme implemented by the State Poverty Eradication Mission (SPEM) of the Government of Kerala. It has prepared and sold more than 29 lacs cotton masks and 5115 litres of sanitizers as on 11th May 2020. It has also set up around 1200 community kitchens, where food is prepared and home delivered to those under quarantine and needy people.
Hence, Kerala could successfully quarantine the infected and deal with the issues of migrant workers simultaneously due to community participation.
- Aggressive Testing Measures
Kerala has diligently followed the WHO approach of ‘test, trace, isolate, treat’.
Since the initial stages of spreading of COVID-19 in Kerala, the State government through thousands of state-employed health workers and volunteers equipped with maps and flowcharts conducted aggressive contact-tracing to bring the situation under control.
The information related to contact of suspected patients is then circulated through newspapers and social media with the request to all those who came in contact with the person in those places to be vigilant and access preventive care.
To Conduct aggressive Testing, Inspired from the South Korean Model, the State Government using active community Participation also built walk-in Kiosks for taking Samples. This process of taking samples rapidly across all 14 districts of Kerala, was made successful with tremendous efforts of students, health workers and volunteers. And Kerala has conducted the test of 38547 as of 11 May 2020 using this aggressive testing methodology.
In addition to using the centrally procured real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing kits, Kerala was the first state to procure rapid test kits from the Pune-based “Mylab“.
Below is comparison of cases in India to Kerala on 24 March 2020.
At the time the national lockdown was announced by honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24th March 2020, Kerala boasted of 109 out of 521 confirmed COVID-19 cases across India and (Presently as of 12th May 2020), it boasts of only 525 out of 74,291 confirmed COVID-19 cases across the nation. Kerala’s recovery rate is a whopping 93 % in comparison to the national average of 32%. The mortality rate of Kerala is also very low ie. 0.7% in contrast to National average of 3.24%. The mortality rate and recovery rates are as per the stats on 12 May 2020.
This data shows that the Kerala Model has been very successful in containing the spread of the Pandemic and Kerala has well and truly “flattened the curve” and furthermore brought it down from there.
I sincerely hope that the other Indian States and Countries affected with the COVID-19 Pandemic take a leaf out of the book of the Kerala Model and Successfully deal with Coronavirus so that the Entire World comes back on track. I have tried to share as much information regarding the Kerala Model as possible, if you also have some additional information regarding it or other Successful Models, certainly do share them with me and people around you.
Till next time , HAPPY QUARANTINE.
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