The Kerala example PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 21 March 2020 11:01
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Sarthak edit 

The Kerala government’s management of the SARS CoV-2 outbreak offers many lessons to the Centre and other states. With 27 cases—of which three have been cured—it has the second-highest number of Covid-19 detections in the country. The state’s efforts on contact tracing and surveillance have been truly exemplary—it has put nearly 25,603 people under observation (25,366 at home, and 237 in hospitals), and 4,622 have been released from observation after they were confirmed not to be carrying the virus. Of the total testing of 15,404 samples (March 20) at the national level, Kerala accounts for 2,250, far outstripping Karnataka, which has carried out the next-widest testing. It has mounted an empathetic response, including delivery of entitlements like school and anganwadi meals (schools/anganwadis are suspended due to social distancing) at home, psychosocial care for those under isolation through counsellors, etc. Even in its monitoring of home isolation, it has instituted the comfort of familiarity by making local government and panchayat level health workers responsible for this.

What makes the state’s response truly distinct is the government’s leadership. Its vision for post-crisis economic recovery, and for sustaining the economy through it, is evident from the Rs 20,000 crore package announced on Thursday. This focuses on the vulnerable demographic sections and economic sectors. Over the next two months, families covered under Kudumbashree, the state’s flagship poverty eradication and women’s empowerment programme, will be given loans totalling Rs 2,000 crore.

A further Rs 2,000 crore is to be disbursed through MGNREGA, while Rs 1,320 crore has been allotted for disbursal of social security pensions for April and May, to be deposited together in March itself. A grant of Rs 1,000 will be given to families that don’t qualify for the social security pension but are in dire need of financial support. Preventing hunger from worsening public health is also a key focus, with an allocation of Rs 100 crore for a month’s worth of cereals to families that have been identified for the purpose. Support for business is also a high priority, with Rs 14,000 crore allotted for payment of contract arrears in April, while the public transport sector (likely to be hit hard by social distancing) is being given a raft of tax relaxations.

There is also grace period for paying utility bills. While the announcement of the package itself is a form of reassurance Kerala’s transparency on epidemic response efforts and management is a lesson in good governance. The state’s health minister, KK Shailaja, who heads the state-level task force on corona, has been conducting daily press meets, and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has dedicated his social media presence completely to the Covid-19 pandemic, offering reassurance, and sharing updates, appeals, and official decisions. Much of this stellar performance is rooted in its Nipah experience; other governments must learn from it to ensure sure-footed epidemic management.


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