India’s Kerala state shows how to fight Coronavirus

K.K. Shailaja Teacher
Kerala’s Minister for Health and Social Justice K.K. Shailaja Teacher has been leading the state’s efforts to contain COVID-19. Image via http://kerala.gov.in

By Ahffan Kondeth

Education is key to the Kerala model that is doing remarkably better than Washington.

Seventy years after driving out its British colonial rulers, India is engaged in a second freedom struggle to expel another foreign invader — a newborn deadly virus called Coronavirus.

And what makes it more interesting is that a small state called Kerala that’s half the size of more than 40+ American states, but has a larger population than all but California, is establishing a model to overcome any pandemic.

The tiny state on India’s southwestern Malabar Coast is very different from the rest of India when it comes to education, literacy, food habits and political tastes.

It’s the only state in India where a coalition led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is in power, and the nation’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has only one seat in the state assembly.

Pretty much all religions coexist in the state very peacefully. It’s a very common sight to see temples, churches and mosques sharing boundary walls.

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But this time, Kerala is making news for another reason — its powerful model to fight the Coronavirus competing at an international level. Going against all odds, it has been successful so far in keeping COVID-19 at bay.

Only two years ago, Kerala was hit by an even more deadly Nipah virus claiming 17 lives at a mortality rate of more than 95%.

The first doctor who treated one of the early patients was quick enough to diagnose an unusual pattern in the symptoms and the health department was quick to jump in to tackle the situation.

The government tracked down every single patient and created a list of 2000+ people to be isolated and quarantined.

With the help of all elected representatives regardless of their political affiliation, Kerala was able to contain the Nipah virus. This in a nutshell shows how advanced the state is when it comes to health care.

In early January, when Chinese officials announced to the world about the novel Coronavirus outbreak, it was not an unknown scenario for Kerala.

Kerala was quick to prepare itself for what was yet to come. Clear instructions and decisions started flowing from the top leadership.

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Knowing full well that their efforts would succeed only with all round collaboration, meetings were conducted at the highest level with the Chief Minister, Health Minister and various other departments.

Thanks to the learnings from Nipah outbreak in 2018, Kerala has now become a structured and well organized health organization.

Point to be noted is that when developed countries like Italy acted somewhat causally and let the virus spread,

Kerala model primarily concentrated on educating and informing people using all modes of communication.

All travelers landing at Kerala airports regardless of their travel origin, risk associated country or not, are screened for any unusual symptoms and their details are recorded.

In case of symptoms, passengers are transported in a separate ambulance to the local district government hospital.

They are placed in an isolation ward for a couple of days before any further decision is taken based on the test results from the virology department.

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Now, if you are a resident who has not traveled outside, but has similar symptoms, government asks a simple favor, just call the local health authorities or your primary care physician and you will be taken care of.

And all this is free of cost to the individual.Yes, You heard it right. No insurances involved. Wow!!

Probably not a single Keralaite would be unaware of the developing situation related to Coronavirus in the state.

The Health Minister ensures that there is at least one press meet daily to update the status and address people’s concerns.

The instructions flow down in a waterfall model where the communication even reaches my remote village through proper authorities. In the age of social media news and Whatsapp universities, such a clear communication path is very important.

The government ensures every tiny detail comes from authorities concerned and there is no fake news floating around. This was how earlier fake news about treating Coronavirus with hot water and garlic was killed at the beginning itself.

The government and opposition parties alike initiated public campaigns like “Clean hands” and “Break the chain” to educate people about how to stop the spread of the virus.

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With the motivation, general public also cooperates well. Wedding functions have been called off, religious leaders are advising followers to stay home and no prayers are conducted at mosques, temples or churches.

All modes of communication are used to the fullest extent to keep people updated. In case of slippages of missing a patient in the beginning, interviews are conducted with the patient and a route map is prepared and with the help of local channels, it is communicated to the public.

Transparency helps to win the trust of general public a lot! What Kerala has achieved in the short time frame is quite remarkable. To get an idea of how remarkable it is, let us compare some numbers with the US.

Washington metropolitan area comprising Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia, where I live is double the size of Kerala with half the population.

The Coronavirus infected numbers are exponentially increasing in the region daily. The numbers changed from three to 100 in a matter of one week.

In contrast, Kerala has kept the number below 50 despite the first case being reported even before the one in the US. Remember we are comparing a developed country with a developing country with resource limitations.

The state has been successful in keeping the social index on par with most developed countries and even surpass some European countries. The overall literacy, education and liberty in the state has helped it achieve what it is today.

Kerala is successful in creating a model that the world can adopt. Keeping the citizens informed and motivated at the same time is not an easy task.

The resource limitations did not come in the way of its efforts to contain the virus and become a model for many to follow in the future. The key here is to act quickly and keep the public on your side.

That’s the only way to stop the panic and keep prepared.  With a very densely populated area and a high level of social mingling, Kerala has its own challenges coming in the near future.

But for a developing country with very limited resources to achieve this feat is unprecedented. Other nations would do well to study and try out the Kerala model in this hour of crisis.

(Ahffan Kondeth, an information technology professional from Kerala, lives in the Washington, DC, area.)

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51 Comments

  1. bcoz of thier model they are sending corona patient’s to. nearby mangalore karnataka state. they just talk so. many years of rule they cdnt build proper hospital, education institutions they talk about literacy but Most of thier people r studying in nearby states of karnataka, tamilnadu and andhra.

    • Idots can’t digest the matter.

      • Ranganath VT

        Before all these know about Tablighi attendees from Kerala and rests states of India…. What % of covid + be in kerala are Tablighi ?? Cokoare amar with karnatka or tamilnadu and compare u will see tn and karantaka would actuahlky fair better , and they both have double pupulation than kerala ….. Kerala model ?? 50% population gobout for earning and education … Hardly 10% family stay together peacefully in their own state !!!! We dint want such model …. By the way article is politically inclined !!! State where only commi govt and where only bjp have only one seat !!!! That expplains all !!!

        • Sir , please check the facts.

          This is about containing the virus spread. Indian govt. itself were following the policies of KERALA initially on this matter and were instructing other states to follow. Yesterday, when PM addressed the CMs of Indian states, stressed in the matter to follow KERALA model.

          There is no politics we are playing at least now.

          Regarding Karnataka, as you said KERALA is sending patients there , is not correct.
          The people in the places near Karnataka border , reach out to border cities in emergencies.

          You should also know that Karnataka closed the border and around 8+ patients from KERALA with different illness other than Covid died due to this. Recently High court of KERALA ordered to open the border but Karnataka approached the Supreme Court against it. Courts directed to open with restrictions and the border is open now.
          I urge you to check the fact on this matter where KERALA is allowing people from TN and KA to reach hospitals in KERALA if it is a causality.

  2. Just ignore the Sangis comments… Poor things waiting for Ram rajya and trying to establish a brhaminical hierarchy can light candles and pray with Modi….

  3. Disappointed after reading the hate filled comments from keralites abroad and knowing how illiformed they really are. Find the status of measures from Kerala government as on 28/3/2020, as published in The Hindu here -> https://www.thehindu.com/society/state-of-efficiency-how-kerala-has-handled-the-crisis/article31181276.ece

  4. Mohananan Nair

    Hahaha You mean commie lies, just like the Commie Chinese lied about #ChineseVirus?
    How come a magazine like your allows blatant Communist propaganda?

    • Rakesh Nottankandath

      Are you in the States? Still alive?

      If you are in Kerala, you would probably be able to continue making nonsense comments as you are safe and alive.

  5. A well written and so informative piece of information. The noted journalist Rajdeep Sardesai rightly pointed out that “What Kerala thinks today, the country follows tomorrow”. Yes, it is. Not only the country, other countries too look at Kerala and its very own ‘Kerala Model’.
    Learn to appreciate and imitate all that is good and indispensable for our very survival.

  6. Dear Friend, Kerala is a model for how one make the whole system fail due to its dire incompetency. Every day the state government force thousands of people to gather around government run shabby outlets to buy liquor. Even on 22 March 2020, one could see how these thousands who gather and buy liquor and go home is the single largest health threat the world can ever imagine.

    Next is the millions of people who roam around with paper printer government run lottery tickets. They make physical contacts with millions every day.

    Can this author, who am sure is a politically motivated individual tell how these actions are a model for the world to follow?

    • Sunil Mathew

      Dear Mr Hari
      You were talking about people buying liquor. The people of Kerala is more disciplined there . Do you know that that they keep a distance of 1 meter between each person? Govt of kerala has already postponed the lottery sale. Do you know that this is the only state that is sending food for the school kids to their houses as schools are closed. Do you know that kerala has started hotels to give food at ₹ 20 a meal due to lack of jobs due to current situation. Do you know w the govt is giving 2 months amount to the jobless people so that they don’t starve. Do you know that the govt agency was making the route map of the people affected by Coronavirus and trying to break the chain so that precaution could be taken. There were some people who came from abroad who did not listen and obey to the instructions given to them which has made it to this stage. But we will fight against it as one without looking for the political party or caste or creed against it. That is the spirit of our kerala . We will fight against our enemies as a single team.

    • Dear Hari
      Are you living in Kerala? If so you are out of tune with reality. I endorse Sunil Mathew 100% on his comments.

  7. Hi Dear Author, e-mail id of the author is a must. The whole covid-19 problem is affected on those people whose Respiratory System is filled with mucus. 99.9%population in the world specially people residing in those countries where most of the time climate is in the grip of cold climate. Until and unless there is a proper and effective method is available to remove phlegm from respiratory system there is no salvation from all infectious diseases including cancer. If anybody wish to know more details as to how phlegm from respiratory system is removed without any medication please contact me.

  8. Well said its time that we leave our parochialism and though I am a mallu enough of this jingoism by the mallu,if you are so proud of your state why do most kalsu aspire to leave the state,its cos of people like your leaders who dont allow any legitimate industries to thrive in the state, so mallus it’s time you awake from your slumber and see the reality, that you are no worse than the rest of us ,

  9. Its a fact that kerala is much better than most of the places, we have set standards that has in par with many developed nations. Guys like you can keep on trolling. We are called Gods own Country for a reason. I am living in USA but i am proud to be called a Mallu. As the poet said and i quote. ” Keralam ennu kettal thilakanam chora njerumbukalil”
    Which translates as “Blood will boil in veins with pride when you hear the name kerala”

  10. Abdul salam haleem

    Awesome piece of writing citing the exemplary actions initiated by the people of Kerala.. Weldone Mr Author

  11. Trollesh Kumar

    Blowing your own trumpet much?
    Gist of this article : Kerala is better than any other place in the world and people should study and follow Kerala.

    On a related note, typical signs of narcissism
    1. Grandiose sense of self-importance
    2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, brilliance
    3. Belief they’re special and unique
    4. Need for excessive admiration
    5. Sense of entitlement
    6. Lack of empathy
    7. Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
    8. Demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes.

    • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Its a fact that kerala is much better than most of the places, we have set standards that has in par with many developed nations. Guys like you can keep on trolling. We are called Gods own Country for a reason. I am living in USA but i am proud to be called a Mallu. As the poet said and i quote. ” Keralam ennu kettal thilakanam chora njerumbukalil”
      Which translates as “Blood will boil in veins with pride when you hear the name kerala”

      • Trollesh Kumar

        You just proved my point.
        Its not just Mallus but people from allover the world, they just cant stop pretending that they are better than everyone else.
        I cant help but notice the classic template of putting a catch phrase and quoting a poet saying you are the best.

      • Trollesh Kumar

        India would be a much better place if you can stop pretending that you are better than everyone else.
        All the states in India have a catchy tag line and a quote from a poet saying we are the best. I believe those peots had that impression from their own times. Not relevant today.

        • Bro facts are facts ., Dont envy, if you cannot lead then follow. Kerala will always be a shinning star of India, all states are equal but some are more equal than the others.

          • Ranji.. I am a European and I have traveled a lot in India including Kerala.
            Trust me I dont envy a thing.
            Your comments are as hypocritical as your facts.

    • Naveen Raju

      When one does a commendable job the requires appreciation..then it SHOULD be appreciated..I noticed a comment by some guy called ‘trollesh kumar’ who sees all this as blowing their own trumpet..
      Well don’t you thing they deserve it? Is Kerala tackling the problem is an effective way? Yes they are..and that has been acknowledged by numerous people..The way his comment is written is is something very commonly seen these days by some political slaves or i.t warriors (as they call themselves )of a specific party.
      Please stay safe these days move over petty politics

      • Trollesh Kumar

        Naveen.. I feel sorry for you Bro.. I am a European.
        I came across the catchy title of the article and was genuinely interested.. but it was just same old.. we are the best.
        In general Indians dwell on the past snd think that they are better than west but Mallus are on another level.

        • Bimal Shivaji

          Absolutely well informed writer..I metnthe health minister in February last. She told.us about the efforts being expended. My friends in US says Kerala is the safest place to be in these dangerous times.

  12. Selfish Kerala Govt and private agencies are periodically dumping medical wastes in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. How do you justify that

    • Naveen Raju

      As a reply to a guy called Rama’s comment regarding the dumping of medical waste in tamil nadu..
      Many sting operation videos done by media channels are available that shows how there is an alarming inflow of fake and banned medicines orginating from tamil nadu to the different medicals stores of Kerala..
      It is the same when it comes to vegitables of meat products that are infused with all kind of stuff that could severely harm the body..
      I often wondered how these people could live after doing such vile acts..the petty mindset of these people who put everything else over profit..

    • Amar Akabar Antony

      Once it was said that, it is better to eat Furudan that eating vegetables and fish coming from these states. We know, peoples of these states have nothing to do with the private interests of a few. It’s up to the government’s of that states to stop such mishaps like Kerala started checking the quality of vegetables and fish from other states.

  13. Sowmin Iringal AP

    I wondered about the article and checked out the name of the Author. Sure enough, a deceitful ingrate Muslim With an axe to grind against America. Kerala is my home state too and I commend their efforts. But, there is no comparison between the traffic from China to the US and China to Kerala. There were a handful of Medical students that arrived from Wuhan and a handful more Italians that landed in Kerala. Compare that to 1000’s of Chinese travelers landing in some 50 plus International Airports everyday in the US. This clueless Marxist actually wants everyone to believe that the daily briefings by Shailaja is so much of a difference maker from Trumps briefings.

    • I really wonder what makes you think the author is a communist and since he has a muslim name does that mean he is anti american, guys like you are more dangerous than kovid 19 and should be quarantined forever to avoid the spread of the venom.

    • Pity you man. Covid virus is less harmful than your view points.

      • Charles Dean

        Congrats to Kerala for doing a good job. The experience with the nipah virus helped.

        That said, comparing Kerala and Washington, D.C., is like comparing apples and oranges. As someone noted, thousands of people from all over the world fly into Washington every day. This no doubt led to a higher number of cases to begin with. If Kerala had no more than 50 cases, it had very few to deal with in the first place, which was doubtless not the case in Washington.

        In addition, the weather has been a factor that probably helped Kerala. Unlike Washington, it has warmer and more humid weather, which makes transmission of viruses more difficult.

    • Sandeep Thomas

      You such people are really a curse of every nation..

    • Sowmin Iringal AP

      100’s of people are dying, 100’s of thousands of people are losing their livelihood and you guys are wittingly or unwittingly carrying the water of China, Russia and Iran in spreading propaganda that America is botching this effort. Given that, Guess who is better person ? By the authors logic, the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu which has 2 cases should be full Of Einstein’s. For the folks that are in the US, have some gratitude. For the others that are trumpeting from outside, have some compassion for people suffering a humanitarian crisis created by China.

    • I really wonder what makes you think the author is a communist and since he has a muslim name does that mean he is anti american, guys like you are more dangerous than kovid 19 and should be quarantined forever to avoid the spread of the venom.

      • Sowmin Iringal AP

        This aquagreen and Ranji have the same comment word for word. Chances are that they are the same person switching names like a chameleon. What did I say about being deceitful and carrying water for the Chicoms , Islamic fundamentalists and the Russian thugs . You guys are so easy. I don’t have to say anything or prove anything. You prove my point yourself.

    • Amar Akabar Antony

      You are a bastard having prejudices about peoples. Nothing else.

  14. @Dr. Jake Thomas.
    What about countries like Singapore and Malaysia situated in similar temperate zones? And the temperature correlation is not yet proved but only hypothesized.

    • Sonny padavil

      Malaysia and Singapore are torrid zone ( tropical ) countries. Equator – zero degree latitude – passes just below Singapore .

  15. What about countries like Singapore and Malaysia situated in similar temperate zones? And the temperature correlation is not yet proved but only hypothesized.

  16. Roy Mathew.

    A very good factual reporting on Kerala’s strife. Congratulations dear good friend. Thank you.

  17. Gopàlakrishnan

    Above all the District Collector if Pathanamthitta, with his unique vision, enabled the Controlling the spread. This MODEL APPROACH needs to studied in detail for dicussion..
    Overall the success behind this is the freedom given to the Administration, the confidence level of the administration for its freedom from the politicians.

  18. Dr Jake Thomas

    The author have no clue how the virus spreads in two different climates.

    Community spread is almost 0% in warmer climates like kerala where the spread is only theough person to person direct contact..

    • Any clue on how Iran is affected if so

      • Francis Anthony Thekkiniyath

        I am a Keralite or Malayali who is residing at the place called Kharghar in New Bombay or Navi Mumbai for a long period, born and brought up at the village called Thottippal of Irinjalakuda, Trichur dist., Kerala and never want myself to be called as “Mallu” by others, but, wish to be called as “Keralite” or as “Malayali” in the complete sense of Malayalam, do like and respect my people, state, language and culture etc., etc. wherever I am in the world and am proud to be a Keralite also. But, whereas, I have come so many times across the Keralites who are born and brought up out of Kerala without any respect to their own state, people, language and cultute and mocking at their own state, people, language and their own culture also. I am so sorriest to tell such type of people from wherever they are coming from in the world that if you are really a Keralite, have true identity and integrity for yourselves as the ‘Malayali’, then, you should not forget to love and respect your own ‘mothertongue’, state, culture and your own people too wherever you are in any corner of the world, should be proud as the Keralite and only those will be your identity and integrity and will help you all very much in the future irrespective of caste, creed and religion. Lovingly yours, Francis A. Thekkiniyath

    • Dr Amit Kesherwani

      Indirect exposure is less in a warm climate. However, the figure 0% is total stupid opinion. Scientists have found out the virus is shrinking while the temperature is going up. And this shrinkage also reduces the rate of indirect spreading compared to cold weather. However, it is still not clear to what extent the spreading rate gets lowered in the warm climate.

    • There’s no real proof for that claim yet.

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