The state's real-time information app, GoK - Direct Kerala, ties in well with on-ground efforts
The rest of India, including the Centre, would do well to learn from Kerala’s epidemic management efforts so far in the SARS CoV-2 pandemic. It successfully prevented transmissions when Covid-19 was first reported in the state—three students from the state studying at a medical college in Wuhan were detected to be infected, and then isolated and treated before being released after testing negative for the pathogen twice. The state has just launched a dedicated app, called GoK – Direct Kerala, which is available on Google Playstore, for passing on Covid-19-related information and updates to the public. The app, developed by the Kerala Startup Mission for the state information and public relations department, will also send information and alerts in SMS format to feature phones. Information being a key weapon in the arsenal against SARS CoV-2, the initiative by the state government ties in with its efforts on the ground.
A daily Covid-19 bulletin (in English and Malayalam) is shared with the app-users, which, as of now, details the number of persons under surveillance, under home isolation, the number of samples of suspect cases sent for testing, and the number of samples that have tested negative (the remainder is not all positive cases, part of it will be cases where the result is pending). It will also give a daily update of cases confirmed, apart from the routine advisories on prevention protocol and general instructions to the public. Importantly, it will give district/city-wise information of cumulative number of persons under observation, home isolation, and hospitalisation. This information will not only alert the population on geographies where the outbreak is gaining pace but also help contain panic since users will get a real-time picture from the government, and updates on what it is doing, instead of having to rely on unverified information on messaging apps and social media, some of which could be malicious misinformation. The app will also be used to share links to important protocol updates, and training videos for health and other line department staff.
On the ground, the state government has harnessed its learnings from the 2018 Nipah outbreak to make efficient and timely interventions, armed with a strong public healthcare network—against the national average of primary healthcare centres every 7.3 km, the state has one every 3.95 kilometres. And, as Mint reports, in preparation for an outbreak, at least 40 beds were identified in public hospitals that can be converted into isolation wards. The state has set up a control room, with expert groups monitoring different containment heads, including home isolation, contact tracing, and training of frontline medical and paramedical staff as well as healthcare workers. Against the WHO-advised 14 day quarantine, the state has followed a 28-day quarantine protocol, given how there have been reports of patients elsewhere remaining asymptomatic for over 21 days from the likely date of infection. Panchayat presidents, and public healthcare officials are leading monitoring efforts on the ground to ensure that people don’t break quarantine, with healthcare workers offering all manner of support to those isolated at home. With such on-ground monitoring, new suspect cases are likely to be reported faster, and the information shared with the public via the GoK – Direct app. The state has deployed nearly 143 counsellors to offer psychosocial support to those under observation and home isolation given the fear, stigma, and discrimination they are likely to face. The government has even established a protocol to deliver entitlements such as mid-day meals and anganwadi meals to beneficiaries given the school and anganwadi shutdown. With such strong, coordinated efforts, Kerala has managed to quickly identify the SARS CoV-2 affected, and, in the process, limited chances of contagion.