United Nations honours KK Shailaja for her efforts to fight COVID-19
In a webinar with United Nations, KK Shailaja explained the strategies, which are now known as the ‘Kerala model’, to combat COVID-19.
United Nations honoured Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja by inviting her on panel discussion on World Public Service Day, which was on June 23, 2020. She was the honored speaker from India to speak about the strategies that were adopted by the state to combat the pandemic.
Kerala's strategy of contact tracing, aggressive testing, and quarantining had slowed the spread of the virus in the state. She was even consulted by the states like Maharashtra to control the spread of the pandemic.
Kerala State Health Minister, KK Shailaja, explained the strategies, which are now known as the ‘Kerala model’, to combat COVID-19. The former teacher has been receiving recognition for efforts that were reflected in the state’s response to the pandemic.
Participated in a panel discussion of @UN on the UN Public Service Day. It was an honour to be a part of a panel that included the UN Secretary-general, Director General of @WHO (@DrTedros) & many others. We had a great conversation on the ongoing efforts against #COVID19. pic.twitter.com/h2N4xEZROk— Shailaja Teacher (@shailajateacher) June 24, 2020
Webinar with UN:
At the webinar which was streamed on UN Web TV, the Minister shared her views with President of the General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad- Bande, Secretary-General of UN Antonio Guterres, Director General WHO Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Minister of Interior and safety, Republic of Korea Chin Young, President of Ethiopia Sahle-Work Zewdw and other senior officials of the UN.
The webinar was organised in order to honour the leaders who have done commendable work to combat COVID-19.
Response after the first COVID-19 case in Kerala:
The first case of COVID-19 in India was recorded in Kerala on January 27, 2020, following the return of the Indians from Wuhan, China. But Kerala had already anticipated that the virus will reach its borders. Shailaja had organised the first meeting of the state’s rapid response team, only three days after the news of the virus emerging in China broke.
Advance planning to tackle the emerging virus:
The Primary control room in Kerala was set up in the state on January 24 along with the instructions given to the medical officers in all the 14 districts of the state to do the same.
By the time, the first case of the pandemic had arrived, Kerala had already implemented the pandemic protocols that were issued by WHO. It was long before the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommended them.
Medical teams in Kerala were already dispatched to all the airports and the passengers had their temperatures checked. Those with running temperatures were immediately isolated and were moved to dedicated isolation wards that had separate entry and exit routes at nearby hospitals.
Entertain Centres and Educational institutions were also immediately closed and large gatherings were banned. Religious leaders were informed regarding the gravity of the threat and they were taken into confidence.
System of Planning, Contact Tracing, and Oversight:
Kerala started the vital exercise of contact tracing in order to identify how far the virus may have spread. Between recording the first case and the National travel that was imposed on March 23, thousands of workers working oversees had returned to the state. But state Health Minister KK Shailaja consistently followed the motto of ‘test, trace, isolate and support’.
By mid-June, over 1,87,000 people had arrived either from the border or from the other states. But the decentralised system of Kerala which was Planning, Contact Tracing, and Oversight worked wonders for the state.
Although the state recorded the initial spike in the cases, the strategy began paying off by April 2020, which resulted in zero reported fresh cases on three consecutive days between May 3 to May 5. However, once the inter-state travel began, case rates rose again in recent weeks.
KK Shailaja explains the plan amid the rising cases:
As per KK Shailaja, the third phase was anticipated. She further explains that the government has a number of contingency plans in case, the cases begin to increase.
Plan A by the government will involve isolating patients at the public hospitals but at the same time ensuring that the beds never reach full capacity at any hospital. Plan B will be employed in the worst-case scenario which will involve converting hotels, private hospitals, and institutions into COVID-19 hospitals.
Kerala has an edge over other states as it has invested heavily in public health infrastructure. In the last four years, the state has focused on transforming its primary health into family health care centres. This also enabled the hospitals to continue the treatment of non- COVID-19 patients while also dedicating an ample number of beds towards tackling COVID-19.
Kerala learned its lessons from the previous Nipah outbreak and had understood how grave the situation can turn if not adequately prepared. KK Shailaja’s strategies had seen Kerala effectively flatten the curve during the first phase of the COVID-19 outbreak.