Thursday, May 14, 2020

Kerala And Covid-19. Lessons for the US.

This Guardian story about the "coronavirus slayer" of Kerala makes for interesting reading.  Kerala's fight against covid-19 has so far been near-perfect, and the credit for that goes to its health minister, KK Shailaja:

On 20 January, KK Shailaja phoned one of her medically trained deputies. She had read online about a dangerous new virus spreading in China. “Will it come to us?” she asked. “Definitely, Madam,” he replied. And so the health minister of the Indian state of Kerala began her preparations.

Four months later, Kerala has reported only 524 cases of Covid-19, four deaths and – according to Shailaja – no community transmission. The state has a population of about 35 million and a GDP per capita of only £2,200. By contrast, the UK (double the population, GDP per capita of £33,100) has reported more than 40,000 deaths, while the US (10 times the population, GDP per capita of £51,000) has reported more than 82,000 deaths; both countries have rampant community transmission.

I recommend reading the linked article to find out why Shailaja stresses the importance of proper planning and how she went about achieving it in quite a poor Indian state.  Kerala's decentralized public health care system (every village has a health center) and its relatively strong education system (which guarantees high literacy rates) were also crucial in Kerala's success against the virus, because they allowed information and mitigation efforts to reach almost everyone in a short amount of time.

Though Kerala has won this battle in the war against covid-19 the war, of course, is ongoing, and nobody knows how the future battles will go once India lifts the current lockdown.  But there are lessons we all can learn from Shailaja Teacher's proper planning.

One is that the war against the covid-19 indeed might best be viewed as a war when deciding on how to best defend against it:   That defense must start with plans from the very top government levels, it must be properly coordinated all the way down to local government units, and citizens everywhere must be made active participants on the side of the defenders.

From that angle the Trump administration has really bungled this.  But then, of course, Trump doesn't see himself as the Commander-in-Chief of this war.