Covid-19: Kerala draws up defence strategy at local body level

Our Bureau Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on March 19, 2020

A file photo of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan   -  The Hindu

The slightest act of indiscretion or momentary loss of focus could potentially take the Covid-19 scenario beyond control, according to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. He made the observation at a joint video conference with Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala addressing officials of local bodies in the State on Thursday.

On a day when healthcare experts in the neighbouring State expressed doubts that community transmission may have taken place with a traveller from Uttar Pradesh with no foreign travel history testing positive, Vijayan said that local administration officials should track migrant labourers rendered jobless due to the virus outbreak and converge in cities/towns to kill time. They could easily fall prey to the virus unless they strictly adhere to the principle of social distancing and join efforts of the larger society to combat it, he added.

Warns against complacency

“The fact that no new positive case has been reported in the State for the past two days and till noon on Thursday provides comfort but that should allow a false sense of complacency to creep in,” he told the audience. Defending a pandemic should not be left to the officials or the State government alone; it behoves on each citizen of the State to look after himself or herself and also take care of the vulnerable and elderly, to the extent possible. The evolving situation is as fluid as it is unprecedented in the country, the Chief Minister observed.

This calls for unconventional measures to protect the community from the tentacles of an unseen enemy. “It is our collective sense of concern for well-being of the society and extreme vigil that has prevented it from consuming us, at least till so far. A well-rooted public health infrastructure has provided us with great support. While there is no cause for fear or alarm, we must not falter on the vigilance aspect,” he added.

Of the total 6.5 lakh hospital beds available in the country, as many as one lakh are in Kerala. The local bodies, with their proximity to people, has a great role to play in ensuring a certain amount of order in their lives since they possess the infrastructure already.

Care of the quarantines

So, it necessarily follows that the local bodies take upon themselves the care of a little more than 25,000 people in home quarantines. They should not run out of their primary requirements such as food and medicine. It should not appear as if the quarantine is a certain form of punishment for their acts of omission or commission, said the CM.

“This is why we have decided to replace the word quarantine with care centre in our official communication. But the local administration must also prevent inmates from fleeing the care centres, as has often happened,” he said. The restrictions on movement and assemblage have put some into inconvenience, especially those who had planned weddings. But they have to bear with the government for the larger good of the public, Vijayan said.

Public service providers

Vijayan also pointed to the need for extending the awareness drive to autorickshaw drivers and newspaper and milk vendors/distributors, who interact with the public on a daily basis. Sanitisers should be provided at ATMs, lifts, and escalators. Public spaces such as offices, bus stands, bus shelters and markets should be sanitised and secured.

The local bodies should also arrange for safe disposal of face masks. Essential supplies such as grocery and generic medicines must be ensured at the doorsteps, especially of the elderly. Each ward member must constitute 15-member community group involving ASHA workers, anganwadi workers, and health activists and identify houses of the elderly or those with an underlying medical condition.

Community groups

Their phone numbers may be collected, which would come in handy during a medical emergency, calling out an ambulance, or arranging a bed at the hospital. The Chief Minister advised that primary health centres extend out-patient consultations into the evening; an additional doctor may be appointed for the purpose. “We are looking to set up a larger collective of doctors, nurses, paramedics, medical students and palliative care workers at the local level. A cadre of community volunteers is being raised to provide counselling services for the needy at their places. These volunteers would also take care of distribution of food and medicine to the family,” Vijayan said.

Published on March 19, 2020

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