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How did Kerala become the latest Covid-19 hotspot?

KK Shailaja, Kerala's health minister in 2020, helped the state contain the first wave

How did Kerala become the latest Covid-19 hotspot?

KK Shailaja, Kerala's health minister in 2020, helped the state contain the first wave

How did Kerala become the latest Covid-19 hotspot?

KK Shailaja, Kerala's health minister in 2020, helped the state contain the first wave

How did Kerala become the latest Covid-19 hotspot?

KK Shailaja, Kerala's health minister in 2020, helped the state contain the first wave

Nearly 70% of India’s Covid-19 cases last week were in Kerala. Yet a year ago, the state's response to the virus was a great success story.

Last year, Kerala stood out as the state that surpassed all others in containing the pandemic. Its Health Minister, KK Shailaja, a former teacher, became a national hero. In addition to her nickname “Shailaja Teacher”, the minister became known as “Coronavirus Slayer”. Vogue India chose her for “woman of the year”, while British magazine Prospect named her the world’s “top thinker” of 2021.

The state’s success was, in a large part, thanks to her foresight and sense of caution. In January 2020, before the novel coronavirus had spread across the globe, she began making inquiries about the health crisis in China. “Will it come to us?” she asked one of her staff who had training in medicine. “Definitely, Madam”, was the response. As a result, she started making preparations long before anyone else in government took the virus seriously.

Only days after she was alerted about the coming pandemic, the first case was registered in Kerala after a plane arrived from Wuhan. Yet a response strategy was already in place, and the state had already begun to follow the World Health Organisation’s guidelines of “track, trace, isolate, and support.” Passengers arriving from China were tested at the airport, and when one was found to have a high temperature all the other passengers were quarantined. Some tested positive for Covid-19 – but the disease had already been contained, and it did not spread within the state.

Four months later, when the whole country was in lockdown and cases were rising exponentially, Kerala had still only reported four deaths.

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