I think we can all agree on the fact that none of us expected 2020 to end up like this. Even before the beginning of 2020, we saw the rise of COVID-19 in some countries. As we are close to the end of 2020, why not revisit those days and look how far we have come and be grateful for what we have?
Since you may have heard plenty of reports from the UK, let’s look at how COVID-19 has affected other countries, focusing mainly on Kerala, one of the states in India. Kerala was heavily applauded for its prompt COVID response and the Kerala Government was even given a special mention by the WHO.
After the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in China, Kerala reported its first case on 30th January 2020. The government declared a state emergency after two more cases were confirmed on 2nd and 3rd of February 2020. The initial response of the state was to screen all the incoming passengers from China and also others who had already come in close contact with them. Immense support was provided by The State Emergency Operations Centre (SEOC) and the office of Kerala State Disaster Management Authority.
The state government’s prompt and effective response is attributed to its experience and investment made in ‘Emergency Preparedness’ and ‘Outbreak Response’ during the Kerala floods in 2018 and especially the NIPAH virus outbreak in 2019, which was well controlled by the state. The state’s increased investment in Disaster Management after these continuous experiences was a huge factor behind the quick action. The government also focused on systematically improving and strengthening the health infrastructure and even set up COVID dedicated hospitals in each district with well trained staff to tackle the virus.
From the political spectrum, an all-party meeting was held where they decided to fight the pandemic together and strictly follow the health protocols. All political parties have agreed to avoid mass gatherings and protests and other political events and have assured to follow strict protocols, even if they do in any case. It has been interesting to see all the parties come together and cooperate to overcome this pandemic – keeping their differences aside.
Lockdown had been announced both by the state and the country, to keep the cases in control. In March, India observed one of the most stringent lockdowns in the world. While the country was totally unprepared for this move, from the health point of view, it was necessary, considering the enormous population of India. While the response had been quite helpful in controlling the cases, it doesn’t mean things are back to normal. Kerala is currently going through the third wave of COVID-19 and the socio-economic damages caused by the pandemic are also a huge concern.
While the lockdown did prove to be effective from the health point of view, it had a rather negative effect on GDP and the job market. The unemployment rate increased by 24% for the week ended 17th May 2020 concerning the youth, especially the recent graduates. Even with the low mortality rates, reports show that the elderly are the ones at high risk, thus, advising them to stay at home and take special care. Moreover, the education system faced a huge challenge with the shift from face-to-face learning to online, leaving children worried.
While India is the country with second highest number of COVID cases, the death rate impressively remains lower than the world average. More and more people are reported to have recovered from the virus which gives us hope to move forward. As a Keralite myself, I have seen people come together disregarding their differences in times of crisis, even during the continuous floods Kerala faced and also during the NIPAH virus and now, the COVID-19 virus, which makes me happy and proud of my state and my people!
By Devika Sunand
Image: by Gwydion M. Williams via Flickr