How Kerala's rockstar health minister helped kill the coronavirus in the state: the Guardian

NEW DELHI: Around the world, when the coronavirus has left a crippling effect on societies and economies, Kerala has emerged as the winner in its fight against the deadly disease.

The state's 63-year-old health minister has played a key role in stopping the spread of the virus in the state, The Guardian reported.

Their preventive action, decisive implementation of the guidelines, and efficient use of available resources have meant that the state has only witnessed four deaths from the disease that has wreaked havoc worldwide.

So much so, that several states in the country are deliberating whether they should also implement the Kerala Model.

This is how Shailaja Teacher, as she is affectionately known in her state, helped stop the spread of the virus in Kerala.

On January 20, when most of the world slept soundly, unaware of the impending disaster looming on the horizon, Shailaja called one of her deputy directors in the health department, The Guardian reported.

It will come to us, he asked, referring to the coronavirus. Definitely, ma'am, replied the official.

Three days later, the minister huddled in a meeting with the rapid response team to discuss ways to stop the spread of the virus in the state.

Within 24 hours, the team established a control room and instructed the state's 14 districts to do the same.

Preventive actions meant that the state administration was fully equipped when the first coronavirus case landed in Kerala on a flight from the Chinese city of Wuhan on January 27.

Three passengers, who were showing symptoms, were isolated at a nearby hospital. The rest were asked to be in house quarantine. They were informed of the dangers of the virus using pamphlets in the Malayalam language. Although the passengers at the hospital tested positive, the administration managed to contain the first group of the virus in the state.

In February, the administration learned that a family, returning from Venice, had gone home without presenting their medical records at the airport. A shocked administration rushed to trace their contacts that they found with hundreds. Officials used all possible means, from social media to advertising, to trace contacts. The contacts were quarantined; six of them tested positive.

At its peak, the state-adopted intensive contact search program saw as many as 170,000 quarantined, the British newspaper reported.

Shailaja was also hailed for successfully handling the migrant worker crisis. The health minister said that up to 150,000 migrants were fed three meals a day for six weeks. The workers are now being sent home on special trains run by the Union government.

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