The newly identified coronavirus which originated in China has taken the lives of more than 800 people and has also spread to several countries including Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the US, France, Australia and India.
In India, all three confirmed cases are from Kerala. As a result almost 2,400 people in the state are currently under surveillance, of which 100 are at the hospital isolation wards, and the remaining have been quarantined at home.
This level of preparedness is a lesson from the state’s previous experience with the Nipah virus outbreak of 2018, which claimed 17 lives, but was eventually contained and declared “over” in record time.
The government is banking on this very experience to tackle the current situation.
Kerala’s Multi-Pronged Approach
When the first case of the virus was confirmed in Kerala on the 30th of January, health minister KK Shailaja immediately set out a multi-tiered approach to deal with the crisis. These steps ensured the health of those who had returned from Wuhan and other affected areas, zero coronavirus deaths and the containment of the virus from the public.
- Officers from the health department were assigned to airports, railway stations, and other public spaces to have an overall check on the travellers and tourists.
- Doctors and medical professionals of both government and private hospitals were alerted to check symptomatic patients, and tracking systems were put into place at all five airports of the state to monitor everyone coming into the state from high-risk destinations.
- Any passenger with signs of the virus entering from an airport or seaport is shifted to a linked hospital, and medical officers contacted, following which the family members are alerted.
- The Kerala state police have also been instructed to not conduct any breathalyzer tests until the virus infections are over and in case of drunken driving, the suspects must be subjected to a blood test.
The state has also put in a great deal of effort to create awareness among the citizens. Besides conducting various medical campaigns, it has set up a 24×7 call centre across all 14 districts with a team including health inspectors and doctors. The Kerala state control room has also been replicated in all 14 districts for the collection and dissemination of information.
“The team has dedicated themselves completely towards the plan. Including the minister, each and every person working across the state for this project has made themselves available throughout the day, keeping all personal commitments aside,” says Dr K Gopakumar, Private Secretary to the Health Minister.
“We have opened up the project to medical professionals from both the private and public sectors and getting all the help we can. Right now the only priority is to tackle this virus, and just as we tackled Nipah, we will overcome this as well,” he adds.
In an extraordinary move, the health department of Kerala has also addressed the mental health problems that follow such outbreaks.
In a recent press meet, KK Shailaja said “ Those who are under home and hospital quarantine due to the coronavirus are suffering from stress, anxiety, and stigma. We have decided to provide them with psychological support under the mental health programme.”
The team of 191 counsellors that were employed as part of this programme have provided counselling to more than 1500 people till date.
She also addressed the spread of fake news through social media and other platforms about the coronavirus and how it should be contained through awareness.
Although no new cases of the coronavirus were reported in Kerala over the last week, the state government continues to be on high alert and the health authorities have strengthened the surveillance by tracking the details of all those who recently returned from China and other affected countries.
+91- 11-23978046 ( To report cases of the virus)
DISHA Helpline 0471-2552056/ 1056-Toll Free ( for guidance and support)
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)