GUWAHATI, April 20 - As Kerala was the first state of the country to be hit by coronavirus, the state started early tracking even before the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) came in. Despite the fact that a large number of people of the state have contacts abroad as a huge population of the state live in foreign countries, the state managed to flatten the curve of spread of COVID-19.
According to the report of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, till today morning, 402 persons of the state were affected by COVID-19, of which 270 recovered and three persons died. The Assam Tribune got in touch with Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose to know how Kerala managed to flatten the curve of spreading of the disease and the following are the excerpts of the interview:
The Assam Tribune: Kerala was the first state of the country to be affected by COVID-19. How did you come to know of the disease?
Tom Jose: Kerala was the first state to report a positive case for COVID-19 in India on January 30, 2020. This was during the first bout of virus spread from�Wuhan, China. Even before the WHO alerts came in, the state was on high alert and started early tracking.
AT: How Kerala managed to flatten the curve? The death toll in Kerala is very low as compared to some other states of the country.
Tom Jose: It is the able political leadership under the leadership of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan along with the earnest effort by a group of senior officers that has led to Kerala�s success.
As soon as the coronavirus hit the state in the second bout, a Crisis Management Group (CMG) which consists of the senior Secretaries of the Government of Kerala and the DGP was constituted. During the initial stage the crisis management group decided to begin the containment strategies by enforcing surveillance in all international airports.
SP level officers were posted in all four international airports of Kerala and District Collectors were on alert. A contact-tracing exercise was launched and help desks were formed.
To make sure round the clock monitoring of the situation, a war room has been set up at the State Secretariat. Under the �Break the Chain� initiative, the government has installed water taps accompanied by sanitizers at public places implementing basic hygiene measures. The State Disaster Management Authority is collecting field level data and is assigned with building epidemiological models and projection studies and bring into the notice of the group. Kerala�s early identification system and its specialized Covid-care wards as the main reasons behind the state�s good recovery rate.
AT: Kerala has a high population having links abroad and a large number of workers and students from the state are in other parts of the globe. How are you dealing with the issue?
Tom Jose: Efforts to cater to the needs of �guest workers�, began almost as soon as the novel coronavirus hit the state in January end. Kerala has taken several measures to ensure the health and safety of its migrant workers. Similarly, Kerala is in regular touch with its non-resident population in other states and abroad through video conferences. Their issues are brought to the notice of concerned Governments where they are staying through the embassies and through Government of India.
AT: How are you managing smooth flow of essential items to the poor as well as the other essential services?
Tom Jose: From leveraging local government to provide food and basic amenities, set up community kitchens, and distribute food kits, to appointing senior IAS officers at the state level to oversee these efforts. Free ration of 15 Kg rice to all card holders and two months advance social security pensions were distributed.
AT: Most states of the country have to take strong action to impose the lockdown. How is the situation in Kerala?
Tom Jose: Kerala also took firm actions to enforce the lockdown. Police patrolling was ensured in all public places. Actions were taken against violators as per Disaster Management Act and Epidemic Diseases Act.
AT: How is the state coping up with the economic recession?
Tom Jose: The effect of recession can be assessed only after the lockdown period is over. State will take up all actions to boost up the economy after the present crisis is over.