Kerala on Monday declared novel coronavirus epidemic as a” state calamity” after three people tested positive in the southern state.
But the state, which boasts of a robust healthcare system, is fighting back to contain the virus that left at least 425 people and more than 20,000 infected in neighbouring China.
The state’s health minister KK Shailaja, who is leading the battle, spoke with Ramesh Babu.
Here are the excerpts:
Q: With three coronavirus cases detected in the state, what is the ground situation?
A. We have declared a “state calamity”. It is not to trigger panic but to create more awareness and care. Two thousand two hundred and thirty-nine persons are under observation and 84 are admitted to various hospitals. Enough isolation wards are ready.
Despite our vigilance, it is sad some returnees dodge health officials. It is really dangerous. If they continue to do this we will treat it as a crime. We need co-operation of all to tide over the crisis. We should be more alert to check the secondary infection. Calamity is declared to create enough awareness and take more proactive steps to contain the virus.
Q: In the assembly, you did not rule out the chances of more samples testing positive?
A. True, chances are there. According to our rough estimate, more than 3000 students from the state are studying in China. At least 2000 have returned including those in Delhi. We fought the nipah virus, that was more dangerous effectively, and will overcome this also. We have formulated a medical protocol when initial cases were reported in China.
Q: What are the precautions that the state has taken so far? How prepared is it?
A. We are ready to face any emergency. Our workers have fanned out to every nook and cranny with awareness programmes. We started it even before the first positive case was reported on January 30. We have prepared enough isolation wards and trained our workers.
Even in schools, we are showing a video about the virus. We need the help of all. All three positive [cases] are stable and responding to treatment well. We have opened a control room in all district headquarters. A rapid response team is also there in all the 14 districts. It is a war on the virus.
Q: The Centre has constituted a high-level ministry team? Are you in touch with the Union health ministry regularly?
A. Yes, we are in touch with them. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan has promised all help. We are in constant touch with the Union health secretary also. With the opening of a testing lab in Alappuzha, we can expedite the testing procedures which were otherwise time-consuming.