How Kerala Is Fighting Coronavirus After Declaring It "State Calamity"

Coronavirus: The viral disease, which has killed 450 people in China where it originated in December, was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation last week as it spread to more than 20 countries.

Kerala confirmed first three cases of coronavirus in the last three days. (File)

Highlights

  • Kerala has stepped up efforts in fight against the lethal disease caused
  • All three coronavirus patients in Kerala are students
  • 28 isolation facilities prepared in Kerala
Thiruvananthapuram:

Kerala has stepped up efforts in fight against the lethal disease caused by Novel Coronavirus- declared a "state calamity" on Monday- after confirming first three cases in India in the last five days. More than 40,000 health officials, government employees, ground staff have been mobilised for three hugely challenging tasks - surveillance, contact tracing and counselling.

The viral disease, which has killed 450 people in China where it originated in December, was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation last week as it spread to more than 20 countries.

All three coronavirus patients in Kerala are students who returned from China's Wuhan city - the epicentre of outbreak - last month. They are admitted in three different hospitals in north Kerala's Kasaragod, Central Kerala's Thrissur and south Kerala's Alappuzha. Twenty-eight isolation facilities have been prepared in the state - two from each district.

In the last three days, over 80 people - who came in direct contact with the three coronavirus patients - have been traced and placed under observation at hospitals and isolation wards. Over 2,230 people are under watch across the state; around 75 of them are in isolation wards and rest of them have been quarantined at homes.

"Co-ordination is being carried out at a mammoth scale. The health department has over 40,000 employees. There are forty other state government departments - animal husbandry, revenue. Several departments will be working together. This goes all the way down to the 1,200 local self government institutions, right till the ground level", Rajan Khobragade, State Health Principal Secretary, explained to NDTV. The Rapid Response Team in Trivandrum is chaired by the state health minister herself.

Sources have confirmed to NDTV that health officials in Kerala sought support from the civil aviation ministry and details of passengers who traveled with the affected three students fron Wuhan before the screenings began at airports across the country. Over 50,000 passengers across the country were screened at airports across the country till Saturday, Union Health Ministry said. 

Contact tracing begins with a detailed interview of the patients, helping them recall as as many details of people they came in direct contact with. Details can be location specific, names of places they visited or people they met. 

More than 600 people were evacuated by India from Wuhan, where they were locked down amid outbreak, over the weekend. "Most students studying at Wuhan are from Kerala and that's why we have been making these mass appeals, intensifying all our measures to contain any possible spread. While people are responding to our appeals very well. If there are people who do not co-operate, we may be forced to take action", KK Shailaja, Kerala's Health Minister has said.

On Monday, Kerala declared coronavirus a "state calamity". This would mean 'all hands on deck', officials said. "All leaves have been cancelled , seven district collectors were to leave for Mussoorie for their training. Now, they have been asked to stay back. It's about streamlining the government machinery to break the chain of contact," state health minister said.

There is a special designated team of doctors and counsellors who have been personally calling the people under isolation at homes or at hospital.

So far, they have personally called and counselled 372 people, giving them specific numbers to call back at any point if they are anxious or fearful about anything.

"We call people, reassure them, give them a number that they can call back on anytime if they deal with anxiety, sleeplessness. This number is functional 24x7. We already had 105 counsellors posted in 10 districts affected by floods in the last two years. So this positioned us in a much better way to reach out to effected families for counselling", Dr Kiran, the nodal officer for mental health in the state, told.