- Kerala was the first state to report a case of COVID-19 in India
- Asymptomatic people with negative COVID-19 results to be home quarantined
- As on May 12, 31,143 are under home isolation in Kerala
New Delhi: Kerala, the first state to report the first case of Novel Coronavirus causing COVID-19 has been successful in slowing down the spread of SARS-CoV-2. The credit goes to the meticulous surveillance, testing and measures like strict quarantine rule of 28-days instead of 14-days for the high-risk cases. Keeping up with its strong fight against the COVID-19, especially at a time when people are returning from other states, the Kerala government has revised its home quarantine guidelines for Keralites coming back to the state.
According to the revised guidelines dated May 11, all those returning from other states will have to undergo a medical examination. While symptomatic people will be sent to the COVID-19 hospitals, asymptomatic people whose RT-PCR test results are negative will be sent to home quarantine for 14 days.
However, on May 8 Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that those coming from red zones will have to be in mandatory institutional quarantine for 14 days and would be moved to the quarantine facility from the check-post itself.
Explaining the reason behind the revised guidelines for returnees, Dr Rajan N. Khobragade, Principal Health Secretary, said,
Our experience so far says that you tell everything to people, empower them, and let them understand that it’s not any external element that is going to control the situation. It’s your, mine and everybody’s responsibility to abide by the health advisory. We have seen that over 98 per cent of the people are following the guidelines.
Dr Rajan also said that people are more comfortable at home than institutional quarantine with the limited facility.
Kerala’s home quarantine and monitoring had produced good results in the first two phases. The expert committee has suggested this should be continued and the government has approved it, said Health Minister KK Shailaja, as quoted by a news agency ANI.
Though the government has allowed home quarantine, it comes with prerequisites. The home quarantine will be granted only to those people who have a separate room with an attached bathroom. If the facility is not available, one can either opt for institutional quarantine or pay for the government-designated hotels.
Further talking about how the government will ensure that people kept under home quarantine are abiding by the rules, Dr Rajan said,
We have a panchayat and district wise record of people – when have they entered the state, who are asymptomatic and under home quarantine. We do check if those people are staying at the address they have disclosed to us. On a daily basis, our team comprising healthcare professionals, police personnel and local volunteers do tele counselling and check if people have any complaints. If someone complains of COVID-19 symptoms, he/she is brought to the hospital, tested and based on the results, the process is followed.
According to the daily health bulletin, as on May 12, 31,616 persons are placed under surveillance in Kerala. While 31,143 are under home isolation, 473 are admitted in designated isolation facilities.
According to Dr Rajan, the state has a meticulous contact tracing system for primary and secondary contacts of COVID-19 patients in place. For one patient, the contact list goes to 500-800 individuals. Also, the state has data on how many people are expected to enter the state and at what time; this helps in timely testing. Elaborating on the same, Dr Rajan said,
We know how many people have got permission from the state to come and at what time. We have done the day structuring and time structuring and accordingly they are expected to come. Yes, there are people who come without registering but we have six gateways. So, whosoever comes has to go through a medical examination.
Further talking about Kerala’s success in containing the spread of COVID-19, Dr Rajan gave the credit to timely action taken by the state and citizens for their support. He said,
On January 18, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the problem and the very next day we issued all the health advisories. When the first student tested positive for COVID-19 everyone asked why coronavirus cases are being reported in Kerala; it was simply because of our strong surveillance. Initially, three students tested positive for COVID-19 and though the students were at their home when they got symptoms, the virus didn’t transmit to their family or within the community because everyone was following the advisories issued by the government. This is the reason, by the end of February, we managed to kick away coronavirus.