Thiruvananthapuram: Having realised that the highly institutionalised mechanism to fight COVID-19 is being overwhelmed by the influx of Keralites coming back from overseas and other states, Kerala is trying out a new model to entrust monitoring and servicing of those undergoing home quarantine to neighbourhood committees.
It is significant that this is happening even as the ‘Kerala model’ is being debated throughout the country and the world, with at least some states seeking help from the state in implementing similar measures.
Kerala has one of the most effective campaigns in the country when it comes to the fight against the novel coronavirus. This has helped the state restrict the number of COVID-19 deaths to just three and the number of patients to a handful. But with the evacuation of stranded Malayalees gathering momentum, there are signs of the system being overwhelmed by the sheer jump in numbers.
Although there is no community spread as of now, there is a serious threat of such a phenomenon occurring as it is tough to keep proper track of those kept in quarantine, particularly at homes, as people tend to violate the protocol, putting others at the risk of infection.
It is in this context that the authorities have decided to involve neighbourhood committees to keep vigil on people returning from overseas and other states. There have been cases of people dodging the system and avoiding quarantine, but with the involvement of local representatives it should be possible to identify any such cases.
Earlier, the state government had entrusted the task to the police and the officials in charge of the districts, but it has been found that remote control had failed to produce the desired results. The neighbourhood committees will have the representatives of panchayats, wards, health officials and public workers.
Under the revised protocol issued in consultation with the union health ministry, all those who come from hotspots or heavily infected cities, whether within the country or outside, must undergo 14 days of institutional quarantine. The earlier protocol had provided for seven days of institutional quarantine and seven days of isolation at home. This meant that a significant number of quarantined people are doing so at their homes.
The government is now preparing for the next stage of COVID-19 defence, which will most likely be of community infection. This is indicated by the increasing number of cases testing positive in the wake of the large influx of people from outside.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said at his media briefing that about 75,000 people have come to the state by way of air, sea and road so far. Of these about 45,000 had come from heavily infested areas. But out of the 66,000 odd people who came by road, only 46 turned out to be COVID-19 patients.