KASARGOD: Alkesh Kumar Sharma, principal secretary, Industries, and managing director of Kochi Metro, is becoming the state government’s go-to man to contain the fast-spreading COVID-19.
After reining in the coronavirus spread in Kasaragod, from 60 per cent of the total cases in the state once to only 13 active cases now, the government on Wednesday ordered him to take charge of Idukki and Kottayam districts which has seen numbers rising from 0 to 17 each in seven days.
A backroom boy who shuns the limelight, Sharma believes in people’s empowerment and awareness in fighting the viral disease. Containment of Covid is a concerted effort of different arms of the government but the most important role is played by the people, he told TNIE in an exclusive interview.
Q. Were people of Kasaragod willfully ignoring physical distancing and lockdown rules? How did you start your Kasaragod stint?
A. People were aware of the disease and were cooperating. The need of the hour was to regulate the movement of people to stop community spread. The district set up ward-level awareness committees, teams of health workers and volunteers were formed to influence the people to change their routine and bring in social distancing and ‘break the chain’ a part of the lifestyle. It reflected on the ground. I saw supermarkets setting up washbasins with running water at the entrance. Then, clusters and buffer zones were set up by the police to limit movement.
Q. Several primary contacts in Kasaragod transmitted the disease to their close relatives. Was the district in danger of a community spread?
A. Kasaragod was never at risk of a community spread. The numbers were high, but that was because most of them returned from Naif in Dubai. The district administration did well in identifying Naif as a hotspot and effectively quarantining them and their families. Kasaragod was one of the first districts to implement the cluster-based containment strategy to minimise the movement of people and ensuring effective home quarantine. It was a focused approach to contain the spread.
Q. Will we see a spurt in active cases in Kasaragod?
A. It is too difficult to predict. We do not have enough data to do a trend analysis. However, we have to be extra vigilant and not take the eye off containment strategies.
Q. In China and South Korea, people who recovered from Covid were getting a second bout of infection. Do we have a plan for such a situation under ‘Care for Kasaragod’?
A. We cannot predict that now either. The second round of infection could be from a different strain of the virus. But what we have is a protocol in place to avoid getting infected. We have to maintain physical distance and continue with ‘break the chain’ movement. Personal and social hygiene is the key to contain the virus.
Q. What impressed you most in Kasaragod?
A. I believe Kasaragod saw success in containing Covid because of the compassion and awareness of the people. That made things amazing. I saw three woman councillors in Nileshwar cooking food in the community kitchen. The municipality did not have even one case of Covid. But they were cooking for migrant workers locked inside. So much of solidarity. That showed the commitment of people and people’s representatives.