Bengaluru: Kerala was the first state to report a coronavirus patient in the country and has since emerged as the most affected. As of Monday, there were 194 cases — the highest in the country — and one death.
But the state has also taken the lead in dealing with the crisis.
Even when it did face a crisis-like situation Sunday, when there was a massive protest by migrant workers in Kottayam, demanding transport services to go back, the government moved quickly to defuse the situation.
It even saw an appeal from opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, who urged the migrants workers to stay where they are, promising the state would take care of their needs.
— Nisha Purushothaman (@NishaPurushoth2) March 29, 2020
The state government has come up with several measures to fight the pandemic. From involving jail inmates in making masks and sanitisers to opening community kitchens to serve the poor and needy, Kerala has taken the fight head on.
As the rest of the country grapples with feeding the poor and migrant labourers, many of whom have set off on foot for home, Kerala has opened community kitchens across the state to ensure no one goes hungry during the national lockdown.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan Wednesday announced that every panchayat in the state will open these kitchens. The government has put the onus on the panchayats to launch a dedicated phone number and deliver cooked food at the doorstep of anybody who dials the number.
The chief minister also tweeted that no one would go hungry during the lockdown.
No one will starve during this lockdown #COVID19
Kerala has taken extensive measures to ensure that no one will starve during lockdown. Will be implemented through Local Self Governments, ward-level committees & volunteers
🍛 Will deliver cooked meals
📞 Will work by phone
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) March 25, 2020
Finance Minister Thomas Isaac Thursday tweeted that each meal will cost Rs 20, adding that 1,000 such community kitchens will be up and running by the end of this week.
No one in Kerala will go hungry. Food kits to every household. Community Kitchensin all local govts.Kudumbasree to open at least 1000 this week itself. No common dining but you can buy meal parcels at₹20 or book for home delivery by phone . For needy and poor free distribution
— Thomas Isaac (@drthomasisaac) March 26, 2020
“There are a lot of elderly, differently-abled and the homeless who have been suffering due to the lockdown. They are unable to go out and buy food or basic essentials,” said an official from the Kerala CMO who did not want to be named.
“This scheme will allow people to call us on a dedicated phone number and let us know if they need food. It will be delivered to them.”
Masks and sanitisers
As the state’s cases began rising in the first week of March, the departments of social justice, prisons and health came up with the idea of using jail inmates to meet the rising demand of masks and sanitisers. This move by the Kerala government has subsequently been replicated by several other states.
The first batch of masks were ready by 14 March, according to the chief minister.
#COVID19 | Solving The Mask Problem 😷
In light of the shortage, directions were given to engage the prisons in the State in manufacturing masks. It has commenced on a war footing basis. Today, the Prison officials of Thiruvananthapuram Jail have handed over the first batch. pic.twitter.com/QKgHWqYNOg
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) March 14, 2020
According to Kerala DIG (prisons) Santosh Kumar, nearly 300 jail inmates are involved in making the masks that are distributed to the public through government health centres. On an average, around 5,000 masks are produced each day from 25 different jails across Kerala.
Kumar explained that initially only a few jails had tailoring units. “Now almost all the prisons are involved in making masks. In jails that did not have sewing machines, people have donated or the machines were bought to manage the rising demand,” Kumar said.
He also said that the prisoners are now producing sanitisers on a large scale.
“The raw material for making the sanitisers is rectified spirit or confiscated spirit, which is given to us by the excise department. We have also obtained spirit from sugar factories to help us make sanitisers. Nearly 500 to 700 litres of sanitisers a day is now being produced by our jails,” Kumar said.
Social distancing — the Kerala way
As people have begun embracing social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, a unique initiative by a Kerala shopkeeper had caught the eye of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.
“How to maintain physical distance between shopkeeper & customer while buying essential supplies — the Kerala way!” Tharoor tweeted on 25 March.
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) March 25, 2020
The picture shows a shop owner distributing rations to customers through a makeshift plastic funnel.
Social media has also been flooded with images of social distancing being maintained by people buying essential items by standing on earmarked circles and squares that are a feet apart. This too has been replicated elsewhere.
Kerala Police Covid-19 efforts
The Kerala Police has played its part in maintaining awareness by releasing educational videos that have gone viral.
One of the viral videos has a group of policemen dancing to a popular folk song to highlight the importance of washing hands. The video was the brainchild of the police media centre’s Deputy Director V.P. Pramod and his team.
Let's #Breakthechain. Let's put everything to work, including humour. Appreciate this effort from the police personnel. Here they explain the need for hand hygiene. Share the word, end the disease. #covidindia pic.twitter.com/BpuT8QF1ir
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) March 17, 2020
Soon after, police departments from across the country, including that of Telangana and Karnataka, among others, made similar videos to generate public awareness on Covid-19.
Another popular video released Wednesday by the department as part of its “Break the Chain” campaign has also gained a lot of popularity. The video replicates a movie scene from a famous Mohanlal starrer, Lucifer, and has been dedicated to health workers and law enforcers who have been working tirelessly during this pandemic.
The police’s social media team has also decided to engage with people during the lockdown. Its officials converse with people on the official Kerala Police Facebook page, offering suggestions on movies and sharing links of e-books.
“We use social media and try to be different at the same time,” ADGP (headquarters) Manoj Abraham told ANI. “From creating awareness to taking precautions we have reached out through various videos. We use filmstars and use the local dialect. It has got good reach and public acceptance. The most important aspect is that they received the underlying message well and are staying home.”