KOCHI: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan deputed top cop Vijay Sakhare to the northern district of Kasaragod as a special officer on March 23, when it was emerging as India's biggest COVID-19 hotspot.
Three weeks down the line, the district is slowly turning into a safe haven for people, paving the way for a discussion on "Kasaragod Initiative of the Kerala Police"-- a model that could be emulated in other heavily-hit areas in the country.
On March 31, the number of COVID-19 cases in Kasargod had touched 106.
They became 164 on April 6 and now in the last six days only 14 cases have been reported, a significant drop in the number of cases in the district.
"It was possible only because of our containment strategy. Basically our strategy was based on three locks-- Lock 1, Lock 2, and Lock 3 to ensure that the people do not mix up and infection does not spread,"Sakhare, who is the commissioner of Kochi city police told PTI.
Taking the charge as special officer, the Inspector General rank officer enforced three locks in the district in line with the lockdown measures taken by the central and state governments to arrest the spread of the deadly virus there.
The locks were put as part of a three-pronged strategy to completely isolate the persons who were primary and secondary contacts of the COVID-19 positive persons came from abroad, particularly Gulf countries, Sakhare said.
"Lock 1 was implemented doing traditional policing methods like road block and mobile patrolling and all. Through this measure we were able to control the people coming out of their homes", he said.
The second strategy was implementation of Lock 2, creating a Geographical Infromation System, mapping all the positive cases, all home quarantined persons, all the expatriates who came from the foreign countries and primary and secondary contacts of the positive persons.
"Very interesting picture emerged. We saw that all the positive cases are concentrated only in seven areas of the district spread over five police stations. We isolated those areas by cordoning them off.
All roads leading to the areas were blocked and nobody was allowed to go in or come out," the IPS officer said.
The police then put the third lock, declaring the seven areas as Covid Containment Zones to isolate the worst-affected places from rest of the district.
Based on the inputs that COVID-19 positive persons who came from abroad had stayed at their homes, met their friends and mingled with family members, the police included all of them in the list of primary contacts and secondary contacts.
"After identifying these contacts, we put them under the Third Lock. They were locked in isolation using technology as well as traditional policing methods," Sakhare said.
"As part of the third lock, we put police guards in front of their homes. We created a beat patrol policing covering 10 to 12 houses of the affected persons.
Visiting their homes, the police personnel educated the people on importance of staying their homes", he said.
Besides, all the houses, where the primary and secondary contacts resided were brought under the drone surveillance, Sakhare said.
He said COVID-19 safety apps were also installed in the phones of the primary and secondary contacts.
"If somebody tries to leave his home, then we get an alert. In that case, we go and shift such people to government quarantine facilities besides initiating legal actions against them.
Three days after implementing the third lock, we have moved 107 people into government quarantines because their actions were dangerous to the society. The app was installed in the phones of over 10,700 home quarantined people," the officer said.
The district police launched home delivery service in COVID containment zones to deliver essential items at the doorsteps of the people to ensure that they remained indoor.
The door delivery programme was later extended to all parts of the district.
The police also launched a 'Kasargod Suraksha App' to provide telemedicine to those isolated and wanted to consult with doctors for their various ailments.
The top police official said after April 14 upto April 21st "we expect 12 to 14 cases only" in the district.
It will further come down to single digit by the month end and "four weeks from now I expect the case will be zero. No report of COVID cases," he added.
Out of the 166 who were infected in the district, 73 got cured. No fresh cases were reported on Monday.