Coastal Kerala village uses umbrella as weapon to combat Covid-19
No matter what the season is, the humble umbrella is proving to be a Kerala village’s chief weapon against the deadly Covid-19 virus.
Having tested umbrellas as an effective instrument for social distancing in peak summer, Thanneermukkom in the coastal district of Alappuzha hopes to reap benefits from the unique project in the rainy season that starts in June and lasts for three months.
The motto is ‘Open Your Umbrella, Come Rain, Shine or Pandemic,’ said P S Jyothis, president of Thanneermukkom Panchayat that has 23 wards.
In a month’s time, the administration distributed 6,000 umbrellas at a subsidised rate through the anti-poverty Kudumbashree project led by women.
Already, the scenic village has found a place in the world’s health map, thanks to the civic body’s exemplary fight against the coronavirus through various measures.
The model, which blends administrative acumen with community participation, stems from a unique feature that guarantees further efficacy for all seasons.
The panchayat mandates every resident holds an umbrella while going out.
“Open umbrellas guarantee a minimum distance of one metre between two people,” said Finance Minister Dr T M Thomas Isaac, the Alappuzha MLA, who suggested the idea.
According to Minister for Local Self Government, A C Moideen, who inaugurated the umbrella venture, “It ensures social distancing. That is key to checking Covid-19.” The civic body’s target is to reach 10,000 umbrellas.
That will equal the total number of households in the tourist village with a population of close to 50,000.
It isn’t just umbrellas that have won Thanneermukkom special appreciation from the government.
As the global pandemic has pressed a nation-wide lockdown that is into its third month, the panchayat inspires people, educational institutions, medical professionals, businesses and farmers to join its mission against Covid-19.
Food and Civil Supplies Minister P Thilothaman hailed the panchayat’s sustained implementation of job schemes during a recent visit to scenic Thanneermukkom along the countrys longest lake, Vembanad.
The whole anti-coronavirus exercise began in early February with the ‘Hanky Revolution’.
That refers to the distribution of kerchiefs and soaps to school children in the panchayat.
Alongside, classes began on ways to use hand-wash and strict cleanliness habits.
The Hanky Revolution was the first major initiative in the panchayat’s fight against the virus after Kerala reported India’s first Covid-19 case (in Thrissur) on January 30.
“Even before it, we started discussions on countering the disease,” recalled Jyothis.
On January 29, the panchayat’s weekly meeting of medical officers along with health inspectors and workers decided to form a steering committee.
Thus was launched a five-member panel that had a 24x7 Covid-19 helpdesk with a toll-free number.
Subsequently, Kudumbashree workers formed ward-level WhatsApp groups.
“They would hold meetings, where pamphlets were distributed. Awareness about Covid-19 was further spread to drivers of auto-rickshaws and taxis,” said Jyothis.
Health workers began giving classes on quarantine guidelines.
Families and neighbours will alert authorities about people having arrived from places faraway.
“Overall, 316 people who recently moved in, were brought under observation. Of them, 58 came from abroad.
All of them get routine assistance from health workers,” Jyothis said.
The panchayat also did a survey of its people living outside Kerala/India, and readied the contact details of all the 1,140 expatriates.
Minister Thilothaman, who is also local (Cherthala) legislator, attended meetings of the panchayat’s core committee.
The returnees are happy, as those on observation (currently 19) are being supplied with essential goods and even gifts, besides books.
“We have a monitoring committee comprising 13 volunteers,” said A Ajmal, coordinator for anti-Covid-19 operations in Thanneermukkom.
As Alappuzha district’s first panchayat to open a Covid- 19 Care Centre, Thanneermukkom has developed a system for disposal of medical waste.
Special drives that insist wearing of facemasks continue, even as the police and revenue officials at the district border are strict in checking road travellers.
A paramedical institute in Cherthala manufactures and markets sanitizers, while students of an engineering college in Thiruvananthapuram came up with low-cost portable ventilators.
The Fire Force spearheads disinfection of markets and roads.
Ayurveda doctors distribute pills that can boost body immunity.
The panchayat also launched a mission to boost farming, by distributing 300 kits of seeds and saplings in each of the 23 wards.
The next round will see each house getting 50 vegetable plants.