"Corona Slayer" Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja reveals reasons behind Kerala's better handling of COVID-19
Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja has been hailed as the reason Kerala has only lost four lives to the coronavirus so far. Here's what she had to say about how the former teacher and her colleagues did that.
Early preparation to deal with the pandemic, upgrading testing facilities, intense contact tracing and counselling people about their reluctance towards hospitalisation, were among the many steps that helped Kerala in effectively dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, the state's Health Minister KK Shailaja said on Tuesday.
Shailaja, who has been widely praised for the southern state's robust response to the pandemic and flattening the COVID-19 curve, reflected on the low number of cases and fatalities in Kerala in comparison to other states while delivering a lecture online for students of the St Stephen's college, Delhi on 'The Practice of Public Policy and Administration'.
"Our first thought was that no one with the coronavirus should die because of our lack of care. A protocol to combat the virus, with detailed guidelines and standard operating practices besides intense contact tracing measures, was also devised before the first patient was tested positive for the coronavirus," the minister said.
"A mental health team, consisting of over 1,000 trained counsellors, would call those isolated in hospitals or quarantined at home to alleviate their mental distress.
There were many tourists who were tested for COVID-19 and their results were positive. They were not sent to their countries but were treated in Kerala. Migrant labourers were taken care off by providing them with all the required logistics and thereafter they were sent across to their respective states," she added.
On Janurary 23, before any other state in the country, Shailaja had held the very first meeting of the rapid response team. The next day, the team set up a control room and instructed the medical officers in Kerala’s 14 districts to do the same at their level. By the time the first case arrived, on 27 January, via a plane from Wuhan, the state had already adopted the World Health Organization’s protocol of test, trace, isolate and support.
Since then Kerala's handling of COVID-19 has been much praised for its prompt response, intense tracing and amazing awareness drive. Kerala government appointed special state officers in different disctricts for seamless coordination. This special officer coordinated and monitored the functioning of district administration and worked to bridge the gap between the field and the secretariat level.
Kerala police too, with its sensitive handling of situations and viral social media campaigns, helped Shailaja and the state of Kerala to deal with the pandemic better.
During her address, the minister also expressed displeasure over insufficient financial allocation for the state by the Centre.
The health minister's lecture was part of a six-day certificate course to understand public policy and its implementation by St Stephen's Centre for Advanced Learning (SCAL) which was set up in February this year.
"There was an initial reluctance that people had towards getting hospitalised and tested, but with the help of the district administration, we were able to provide confidence and all required support to the patients and others," she said.
The Kerala Health Minister, popularly known as Shailaja Teacher said the coordination between the state government and various agencies from different districts played a crucial role.
(With PTI inputs)