How Kerala contained coronavirus effectively

All health institutions like labs, clinics, private hospitals and others were strictly told to go by protocols. Breath analyser tests of police and others were discontinued. Mental health teams were floated to deal with those quarantined.
A salesman at a chemist’s shop helps a buyer to wear her protective mask.(PTI PHOTO.)
A salesman at a chemist’s shop helps a buyer to wear her protective mask.(PTI PHOTO.)
Updated on Mar 06, 2020 11:52 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram | By

With the country bracing itself to tackle fresh cases of Coronavirus, Kerala’s efforts to successfully combat the disease may prove handy. It has effectively contained the virus so far and nursed back the first three patients reported in the country, all medical students who returned from Wuhan in China. The state’s efforts were lauded by all including virology experts. What exactly did Kerala do? Ten points to know:

1.Intensive surveillance at all airports: In January first week, the state had alerted its health staff after China complained to the WHO about high incidences of pneumonia. Screening started at all four airports. Ambulances and health workers were ready at airports. All those who had returned from China were put under special observation. Designated health workers, trained in barrier nursing, reviewed their health situation every day.

2.Effective contact tracking: When the first case was reported on January 30, health workers fanned out and quarantined all who had come in contact with the first patient. The state declared a ‘calamity’ after two more cases were confirmed. Announced that if China-returnees dodged surveillance it would be treated as a crime. More than 5,000 people were quarantined in their homes and suspected people were kept in isolation wards for a few days.

Also read: With 33 in isolation, a look at how Delhi is battling coronavirus crisis

3.Awareness creation: People were told about the situation and asked to be vigilant. People were advised not to participate in big gatherings for the time being. Schools and colleges were advised to put a break on study tours and excursions. In many schools students were given enough lessons and simple tips on preventive measures like hand washing and covering the face while sneezing.

4.Health protocol in place: All health institutions like labs, clinics, private hospitals and others were strictly told to go by protocols. Breath analyser tests of police and others were discontinued. Mental health teams were floated to deal with those quarantined. Intensive announcements through print and electronic media were made on dos and don’ts.

5.Strict quarantine: Those who came in contact with primary patients were quarantined for 28 days, though the WHO prescribed only two weeks incubation period. Those quarantined were taken care of appropriately. Their health situation was regularly monitored. Many people sought counselling.

6.Grassroot planning: The state was on battle-mode once students started arriving from China. Rapid response teams comprising grassroot Anganwadi and Asha workers, para medical staff, local body members and doctors formed under the DMOs. At least two hundred isolation wards were ready in a few days with trained health workers. Primary health centres were strengthened and leaves of health staff cancelled

7.Check on rumour mongers: There was a proper check on social media to rein in rumour mongers. Ten cases were registered in two weeks and some people were arrested also. This helped avert panic.

 

8.Old Nipah lessons came handy: Nipah was more dangerous with 70 per cent mortality rate while COVID has 2 per cent. The state had controlled the Nipah outbreak two years ago though it claimed 17 lives. Some of the lessons and protocols came handy for Kerala.

9.Involvement of private hospitals: Many private hospitals pledged support to the government. During Nipah also, some private medical practitioners helped the government to solve the puzzle. A Malayalam movie ‘Virus’ about the Nipah outbreak was a big hit portraying the role of some of them prominently.

10. Review meets twice a day: In the initial days, state health minister K K Shailalaja camped in some of the districts where patients were admitted. There were two review meetings every day and experts given a free hand to deal with the situation. Despite the stellar role many experts say the state needs a Plan B which focuses on mitigation. They emphasized a long-term strategy for this saying such viral outbreaks can be frequent in the coming days.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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