COVID … Kerala health minister on BBC World: explains how Covid deaths were minimized

KOCHI: Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja Teacher, interviewed by BBC World, expressed confidence that the state’s drive against Covid-19 will remain a success. “The last four years we are trying very hard to strengthen the primary health centres,” which was one of the reasons why the Corona cases could be handled well at spread could be controlled, Shailaja told BBC.

 “We are having systems to check on those arriving by road, rail, sea and air,” which helped too, she told the interviewer. “If they have symptoms, we are lifting them directly to hospitals, and checking them via lab tests,” she said.
To a question how the state could control the spread and limit the deaths to four in a state of 35 million, she said the actual deaths were only three; and one death was of an individual who came from Goa.

Shailaja, a science teacher by profession, explained matters in chaste English, without interruptions. 

“Are you worried that when trains start moving, the virus could spread to a state like Kerala,” she was asked.

“Yes, we are a little worried, and large numbers are coming from abroad by flights too, and we are a little much worried, a large number of people are coming, we have very high human resource spread around the world, and we are ready to receive them and send them to home quarantine. We are having surveillance system to ensure they sit at homes for a specific period,” Shailaja Teacher said.
Shylaja is a major support to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who is ably soldiering on in the state’s fight against Covid at multiple fronts. The strong administrative skills of the chief minister won praise from all quarters alongside Shailaja’s calm and composed manner in handling the health sector. 

Notably, Shailaja never gave public display to the firmness with which she handles the medical sector workforce. She has also been an effective campaigner for the CPIM in assembly and other polls in the state, moving from home to home and sitting with the womenfolk to press a point or two.

On the CM’s part, major steps relating to Covid control included effecting strict regulations in the streets and keeping people informed of the day’s related developments through daily evening TV addresses, with the health minister, the state chief secretary Tom Jose and revenue minister E Chandrasekharan on his side. 

The Chief Minister, who is holding the Home portfolio directly controls the police and he is also directly handles collectors, though the revenue department belongs to the CPI. With these two major power centres in his hands, coordinated activities in Covid control were easy to implement.

Two matters in which the Pinarayi Vijayan government concentrated in its last four years were in improving facilities in government hospitals and strengtheing the government school education sector, both with an eye on reaching out to the ordinary families in the state. The government has also strengthened the public distribution system, and BPL families are showered with lots of free food materials, including the generous rice allocations from the Modi government at the Centre. The government’s big plans on infra development front have not materialized much on the ground, though. —IHN-NN


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