With 37 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kerala and a total of 236 confirmed cases in India (as of 20th March 2020), the Kerala government has stepped up in ensuring that the citizens are aware of the intensity of the situation.
They have announced a Rs. 20,000 Cr special package for the State to fight the #COVID19 pandemic. The plan will cover health packages, loan assistance, welfare pensions, support people under MNREGS, free food grains, subsidised meals, tax relief and arrear clearance.
The state has also come up with many initiatives to make citizens aware of the COVID-19 virus and give them a better understanding of it.
One such initiative is the #BreakTheChain campaign which aims to raise awareness among the public on the importance of handwashing and personal hygiene in the time of the pandemic. As part of the campaign, the government is installing handwashing outlets in many public areas including bus stops, government offices and hospitals.
On 16 March 2020, the Health Minister of Kerala, KK Shailaja launched the #BreakTheChain campaign by stating, “The one way we can prevent the spread of this deadly virus is by following personal hygiene and making a habit of washing our hands and face whenever we are in public contact. By doing so we can break the chain of this virus.”
Dr Divya S Iyer, IAS, who is currently heading the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), Kerala has also actively joined the #BreakTheChain campaign and is spreading awareness to rural communities about the epidemic and the necessary precautions to be taken.
With almost 16.3 Lakh people who are employed as part of the rural employment guarantee scheme in almost 38,000 sites across the state, Dr Divya points out that many of the beneficiaries are above the age of 50 and are at a higher risk of being affected by the virus.
“As educated citizens, there is a certain level of social commitment that we must all have. During crises like these we often forget the most vulnerable population – the one that has no access to information and is unaware of what’s going on around them,” she explains.
“On my visit to the Kallikkad village as part of the campaign, we demonstrated proper hand washing techniques to the workers and ensured that they had all the necessary facilities like soap and water. We’ve instructed them to wash their hands frequently and bathe before and after work,” says Dr Divya.
She also informed that wearing gloves has been effective for these workers. While taking feedback, the workers said that wearing gloves helped them avoid touching their face frequently.
“This kind of information from the people is very crucial and can go a long way. It can help control the virus and help us tackle epidemics that could affect us in the future,” she explains, “So the point of the campaign is not just to raise awareness and prevent the spread of the virus but to also cultivate a habit of personal hygiene among citizens.”
“The campaign mainly works on two important levels, to protect ourselves and ensure the safety of others. The #BreakTheChain campaign can only be successful if we work together as a community. What we can do as citizens is to stay informed, rely on verified sources for information and have a sense of social commitment and think of both our own and others safety,” Dr Divya concludes.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)