With figures emerging of Kerala’s success in dealing with the Covid-19, the rest of the nation has lessons to learn from it. This article describes the approach adopted by Kerala, and how various factors like robust health infrastructure, past experience etc. are helping it.
Why Kerala stands out: figures and facts
- The COVID curve in Kerala is flattening.
- Every day, for a week now, the number of recoveries has exceeded the number of new infections.
- The recovery rate in Kerala is nearly 50 per cent while the all-India average is around 11.
- While the mortality rate among the infected is 5 per cent in Kerala, the all-India average is 3.4 per cent.
- The transmission rate of a primary carrier is 6 while in Kerala it is only 0.4.
- With Covid-19, we are in unknown territory in many ways. If Kerala emerges as the success model, the question can be framed from that perspective. So, note down the factors described below that are helping the state in tackling Covid-19 successfully.
Preparing for the next challenge
Kerala is preparing for the next challenge, the outcome of which will determine the result of the war against COVID.
Lifting of the lockdown is going to result in an influx of returning migrants from foreign countries and other states.
Hundreds of thousands would have to be quarantined, tested and, if positive, treated, ensuring there is no secondary spread.
State authorities have already identified accommodation and other facilities for more than two lakh persons.
Use of big data analytics: The state is also exploring the possibility of big data analytics to plan a strategy and, if necessary, for reverse quarantining.
Authorities have access to WHO data covering nearly two-thirds of the state`s population.
Integrating this data with the information currently being generated, we will be able to map vulnerable sections of the population, simulate scenarios and plan ahead.
Exit strategy: An exit strategy from the lockdown is being prepared to protect livelihoods and stimulate the economy.
Strength of the public health system of Kerala
The single most important factor that enabled Kerala to be prepared for the COVID is the strength of the public health system.
Kerala’s health system is a proud legacy of our past
It has had a big push in infrastructure and equipment investment of around Rs 4,000 crore from the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board.
Five thousand seven hundred and seventy-five new posts have also been created.
The Aardram Health Mission was launched with a focus to transform the PHCs into family health centres.
Distinctive feature: There is also the distinctive flavour of Kerala — mass participation in preventive and palliative healthcare.
Training to health workers: The morale of health personnel has been exceptionally high.
Special training, protective gear, scientific duty rotation and, most importantly, societal empathy and solidarity, have all contributed.
Learning from the past experience
Nipah outbreak experience: The recent experiences of successful containment of the Nipah outbreak and management of the two post-flood health situations have provided a kind of herd immunity to the health workers to crisis situations.
Covid-19 preparedness: Once news of the Wuhan pandemic came, the Kerala health system scrambled to readiness — the control room was set up, mock drills were organised and the first influx was contained.
Once migrants from the Gulf and Europe began to return, things began to get out of hand.
But now this battle has been successfully concluded.
Testing and tracing in Kerala
A route map of each COVID positive case is prepared and given publicity, alerting everybody who might have been in contact.
The protocol of cycles of intense test, trace, isolate and treatment has been the norm.
Kerala has the highest test rate in the country.
Break the Chain Campaign to promote social distancing has been successful.
Lockdown by itself is not going to contain the COVID spread. It would continue to multiply within households and dormitories.
Testing has been woefully insufficient in the national response so far.
Welfare payment in Kerala more than the rest of the country
In Kerala, 55 lakh elderly and disadvantaged have received Rs 8,500 as welfare payments.
An equal number of workers have been paid Rs 1,000-3,000 each from the welfare funds.
Every family has been provided with a food kit.
Interest-free consumption loan of Rs 2,000 crore has been distributed.
Besides, nearly 4 lakh meals are distributed every day to the needy from community kitchens set up by local governments.
Local governments are also duty-bound to monitor the camps of migrant workers, set up new ones and ensure medicine and food to them.
Decentralisation paying off in Kerala
All the above was not made possible by the state government alone.
It is the synergy generated by integrating state government plans and programmes with the local governments, the co-operatives, women neighbourhood groups (Kudumbashree) and civil society organisations that make Kerala distinct.
The floods and the pandemic have given testimony for the potential of democratic decentralisation.
It is a case of multi-level planning with technical committees and groups working at the state level coordinated by the chief minister.
Though it is too early to declare Kerala as a success story, still there are many lessons to be learned by the rest of the country in its fight against Covid-19.