Source: IE

Context: As the COVID curve in Kerala is flattening, it is preparing for the next challenge, the outcome of which will determine the result of the war against COVID. 

Some facts

Every day(for a week now,) the number of recoveries has exceeded the number of new infections. 

  • The recovery rate in Kerala is nearly 50 per cent while the all-India average is around 11. 
  • While the mortality rate among the infected is 0.5 per cent in Kerala, the all-India average is 3.4 per cent. 
  • The transmission rate of a primary carrier is 2.6 while in Kerala it is only 0.4.


Interventions in the health system: 

  • A big push in infrastructure and equipment investment of around Rs 4,000 crore from the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board. Around 6000 new posts of health workers have also been created. 
  • The Aardram Health Mission was launched with a focus to transform the Primary Health Centres(PHCs) into family health centres, which exists to provide access to primary medical, dental and mental health services for community members.
    • The family health centres will have emphasis on the medically underserved, to improve the health of the community and to train future health care providers.
  • Mass participation in preventive and palliative healthcare: This is a distinctive feature of the healthcare system in Kerala.
  • Nipah outbreak and aftermath: The recent experiences of successful containment of the Nipah outbreak and management of the two post-flood health situations have provided a kind of herd immunity to the health workers to crisis situations. 
  • Exceptionally high morale of health personnel: Special training, protective gear, scientific duty rotation and, most importantly, societal empathy and solidarity, have contributed in building morale of health workers. 

Steps taken by Kerala Government during COVID outbreak:

  • Pre-Disaster Preparedness: Once news of the Wuhan pandemic came, the Kerala health system scrambled to readiness - the control room was set up, mock drills were organised and the first influx was contained. 
  • The protocol of cycles of intense test, trace, isolate and treatment has been the norm. Kerala has the highest test rate in the country. 
  • Break the Chain Campaign to promote social distancing. This is indeed a very important lesson as the lockdown by itself is not going to contain the COVID spread. It would continue to multiply within households and dormitories. 
  • Mapping vulnerable sections: By integrating available WHO data with information currently being generated, the government has been able to map vulnerable sections of the population, simulate scenarios and plan ahead. 
  • A route map of each COVID positive case is prepared and given publicity, alerting everybody who might have been in contact. 
  • Assistance to vulnerable: 
    • 55 lakh elderly and disadvantaged have received Rs 8,500 as welfare payments. 
    • An equal number of workers have been paid Rs 1,000-3,000 each from the welfare funds. 
    • Every family has been provided with a food kit. 
    • Interest-free consumption loan of Rs 2,000 crore has been distributed. 
    • Local governments are also duty bound to monitor the camps of migrant workers, set up new ones and ensure medicine and food to them.
  • Post-Disaster Preparedness: An exit strategy from the lockdown is being prepared to protect livelihoods and stimulate the economy.
    • As the lifting of the lockdown is going to result in an influx of returning migrants from foreign countries and other states, the Kerala government identified accommodation and other facilities for more than two lakh persons. 
    • The state is  also exploring the possibility of big data analytics to plan a strategy and, if necessary, for reverse quarantining(detaching the most vulnerable people from the general public). 

How is all this possible?

  • Synergy between state,local government and NGOs: It is the synergy generated by integrating state government plans and programmes with the local governments, the co-operatives, women neighbourhood groups (Kudumbashree) and civil society organisations that makes Kerala distinct. 
  • People’s Plan Campaign: That transformed local governments in the state. 
    • The floods and the pandemic have given testimony for the potential of democratic decentralisation.
    • It is a case of multi-level planning with technical committees and groups working at the state level. 
  • G2P Communication: Daily evening briefing by the government during the COVID outbreak is helping in avoiding any confusion in crisis.

Concern: Lack of adequate financial resources has been the biggest impediment faced by the government. The Central government has to step in and ensure adequate fiscal space to the states.

Preparedness is the key word to the success of Kerala and the single most important factor that enabled us to be prepared for the COVID is the strength of our public health system.

The Kerala model can help other states in their fight against COVID-19 outbreak. Thus, the best practices in the field of preparedness and vision to fight the outbreak can be emulated.