Kerala has succeeded to control the coronavirus outbreak by restricting it to the primary level, even as the rest of the country is still struggling to cope with the deadly disease.
No new cases have been reported in the state in the past two days, demonstrating the success of the policy of containment. Although there were a number of cases of patients testing positive having interacted with a large number of contacts, the state administration managed to identify nearly all of them and keep them under observation, thereby preventing the risk of community infection.
As many as 26,000 people are in isolation at their homes in addition to over 200 who are under observation in hospitals. As many as 2,140 samples have been tested negative, leaving the total number of cases testing positive at 24.
Although Kerala was the first place to report the instance of coronavirus, when batches of students returning from China's worst-affected Wuhan area were tested positive, there have been no deaths. All those who were admitted to hospital on their return from China have since been recovered and discharged.
The threat of a secondary level attack arose only when a family coming from Italy gave the slip to the monitoring mechanism at the airport and interacted with a large number of people. All those primary and secondary contacts have been identified and isolated. There have been few other cases of virus-affected patients getting into contact with others but the authorities have succeeded to prevent the secondary infection by identifying and isolating them.
With the outbreak apparently under control, the state has now turned its attention to the care and rehabilitation of those who are under isolation. While streak incidents of a few people escaping from isolation at hospitals and other such centres, the general public has managed to absorb the stress of a stringent protocol against the spread of the disease.
Community leaders, including the management of places of worship, have volunteered to restrict crowds and even cancel events in view of the emergency situation. This has been achieved not by invoking rules and laws but by appealing to the social commitment of the communities.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who congratulated the people for the success in containing the infection, however, stressed the need to keep continued vigil and pointed out that the task now is to attend to the needs of those who are in isolation, including their emotional and physical wellbeing.
Addressing a conference of civic bodies, Vijayan said that it is now for the local bodies and the grassroots level people's representatives to carry the work forward. He reminded them of the high risks involved in the event of a community infection and urged them to be prepared to meet any eventuality. The conference was also addressed by Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala.
The local bodies have been charged with the task of reviewing the available healthcare facilities, including the number of hospital beds and ICUs in their respective areas and identifying private buildings, hotels, lodges and other facilities where the people under isolation can be accommodated.
Vijayan also presented the blueprint of an elaborate mechanism, which involved the local body, government apparatus, healthcare professionals, government officials and the general public to fight the risk of the infection spreading to the next levels.
He also stressed the importance of containing the economic impact of the virus infection which has led to widespread loss of livelihood to a large number of people including roadside vendors, small traders, transport workers, including bus and taxi drivers and daily wage earners. Also those who need care are migrant workers from other states who have been thrown out of employment.