Communist Physics Teacher Early On Flattened The COVID-19 Curve In Southern India

  • When the World Health Organization (WHO) issued its first statement on the spread of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, on 18 January, few local governments in India paid close attention. But K. K. Shailaja, the diminutive woman running the health ministry in the southern state of Kerala, immediately took action.
  • By 24 January, Shailaja had called a meeting of her rapid response team, set up a control room, and mobilized surveillance teams. “In many ways, [Kerala] got it right,” says virologist Shahid Jameel, director of Ashoka University’s Trivedi School of Biosciences. “They possibly got it right the most of any Indian state.”
  • Kerala was ripe for the spread of the virus, with its large urban population, many residents traveling abroad, and high influx of migrant laborers from other states. Yet with targeted testing, contact tracing, and isolation measures, the leftist state government brought the number of daily new cases down to almost zero in the first few months, flattening the curve far better than the rest of India. 

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