Kasaragod district – which at one point had the highest number of COVID-19 patients in the country – became COVID-19 free, with a stunning 100% recovery rate. The last of its 178 patients walked out of the COVID-19 Care Centre (CCC) at Kasaragod Medical College building Sunday evening. The CCC was set up in four days. Many such decisions made the difficult task possible for a district that does not even have a medical college. The district, with no previous experience of a pandemic, learned on the go.
Key decisions that helped turnaround the rising graph of COVID-19 cases
January 30: First COVID-19 case reported in Kerala, in Thrissur. The patient arrived from Wuhan
January 31: A medical student who also arrived from Wuhan admitted to Kasaragod District Hospital with symptoms
February 3: Patient tested positive, the third case in state.
- In anticipation of an outbreak in the district, the same day, Collector D Sajith Babu forms 16 expert committees to manage the anticipated outbreak in the district.
- The same day, the district administration launched a social media blitzkrieg putting out messages calling for social distancing, asking those who returned to Kerala stay to home and if they develop symptoms shall report to the nearest PHC without fail.
- Threats were used in equal measure. Those who violate the directions will be imprisoned for six months under Section 269 of IPC.
February 16: The first patient recovers.
- Health officials and workers go into extensive training and refresher course on infection control and on donning and doffing of PPE kits.
March 5: Arogya Jagratha Samithi was formed in every ward, with ward member as the chairperson and junior health inspector and accredited social health activist (ASHA) as members. It was responsible for grassroots surveillance and monitoring of isolated patients.
March 14: Minister-in-charge of district E Chandrasekharan adds police to the committee, renames it as Jana Jagratha Samithi. Apart from surveillance and monitoring of suspects, it is tasked with creating awareness on social distancing and ‘break the chain’ campaign, discourage gatherings at public places and places of worship.
March 16: A month after the first patient recovered, the district gets the second case. The patient was from Naif in Dubai.
- Assembly of people prohibited, police were given full powers to disperse the crowd of more than 50 in auditoriums, places of worship, community halls. Hotels, restaurants and salons shut.
March 18: The control room collates data on shops providing and selling essential services and items so that passes can be issued to them in the event of a lockdown.
March 19: The third case reported. He too is from Naif in Dubai. It gave a scare to the district, as the patient flouted quarantine rules and mingled with many.
- The district acts fast. Medical examination centres set up at the border at Thalappady, awareness campaigns run.
- Patients with symptoms shifted to corona wards set up at the Government General Hospital at Kasaragod and District Hospital Kanhangad. Patients shifted in special vehicles.
March 20: Collector asks all who returned from Naif to report at PHC, and give swabs.
- 12 of the 17 roads from Karnataka to Kasaragod closed.
- Mother and wife of patient test positive; the district administration drops the phrase home quarantine for room quarantine
March 21: The collector restricts business hours. Shops to be open only from 11 am to 5 pm. Restaurants, salons closed for two weeks. Milk booths allowed to sell only milk and not tea, soft drinks of other food items.
March 22: Country observes Janata Curfew. Active cases jump to 19.
March 23: Additional 500 police personnel brought in to enforce Section 144.
March 24: Countrywide lockdown imposed. Active cases at 44.
- Liquor sales stopped. Tough cop and Kochi police commissioner inspector general Vijay Sakhare reaches Kasaragod to strictly implement the lockdown.
March 25: Incident commanders appointed instead of taluk level squads; voluntary organisations stopped from taking up COVID-19-19 work. Roads blocked, villages cut off, ruthless implementation of lockdown.
March 28: As the largest number of corona cases are reported in Kasaragod, GH becomes COVID-19-19 hospital.
March 29: Principal secretary (industries) Alkesh Kumar Sharma appointed to monitor activities in the district.
March 30: Active cases cross 100, highest in the country for a district. Triple lockdown implemented in hotspots.
April 3: Three persons recover from COVID-19.
April 6: CM announced the second COVID-19 hospital in medical college building, which is under construction. District ready with 903 beds for COVID-19 patients.
April 12: The curve begins to flatten. A total of 61 persons recovered.
April 13: The medical team of health inspectors, junior health inspectors, begins filed investigation to test for community spread.
April 16: Union ministry of health appreciates the district.
April 30: Last positive case reported. Total confirmed cases at 178, the highest in Kerala.
May 10: The 178th patient recover. 100% recovery rate.
The district has now arranged around 2,000 rooms to quarantine those who come from abroad and other states.