Bengaluru, Jun 16, 2020: Two politically southern states, Karnataka and Kerala have little in common. For the communists in Kerala, Karnataka is a saffron state. For the BJP in Karnataka, Kerala is a red state. And many Karnataka BJP leaders don’t waste a single opportunity to mock and ridicule the Kerala “model”.
Now, in a strange turn of events, both Karnataka and Kerala are being hailed as model states in their fight against the spread of dreaded pandemic coronavirus. The BJP government led by chief minister BS Yediyurappa and the Communist government led by Pinarayi Vijayan have so far successfully contained the disease in their respective states.
The cases are rising at an alarming rate in their neighbouring state Tamil Nadu. The situation is Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is slightly better.
In the last 90 days, both Karnataka and Kerala governments have aggressively fought Covid-19, limiting it to small numbers compared to many other states that continue to struggle with the crisis.
The ideologically and diagonally opposite BJP and Left governments have even shared the details of medical care and other measures taken by the respective states with each other. Karnataka Medical education minister Dr K Sudhakar has held a video conference with Kerala’s much celebrated health minister Shailaja teacher to discuss the steps to be taken to combat the spread of virus.
Niti Ayog’s CEO Amitabh Kant hailed Karnataka’s efforts in combating coronavirus, saying, “Compared to other metro cities, cases per million in Bengaluru are extremely low. For every confirmed case, they traced 47 contacts. In Delhi it is 2.1. Karnataka has also done large scale testing of patients with influenza like symptoms (SARI & ILI). Great!”
The Government of India statistics which are in the public domain prove that Karnataka and Kerala have done reasonably well and contained the spread of the disease to a large extent.
On Monday, Karnataka had about 7,000 confirmed cases with 88 deaths. Among them, 4,135 who had tested positive have recovered, with a mortality rate of just 1.2 per cent.
One of the key factors in Karnataka’s largely successful efforts at controlling Covid-19 in the state has been aggressive contact-tracing, quarantining and testing. Researchers from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) who conducted a study of contacts tested of Covid-19 patients in different states between January 22 and April 30 found Karnataka at the top, with 93 on average tested compared to the national figure of 20.
On Monday, Kerala reported 82 new cases, talking the total number to 2,543. Out of the new cases, 13 are from Ernakulam district, 11 are from Pathanamthitta, 10 each are from Ernakulam and Kottayam, 7 are from Palakkad, 6 each from Malappuram and Kozhikode, 5 from Alappuzha, 4 from Kollam, 3 each from Thrissur and Kasaragod, 2 from Idukki and 1 each from Wayanad and Thiruvananthapuram.
Yediyurappa’s handling of the crisis has won him appreciation from both within and outside his party, since fighting the virus in a huge, highly industrialised state like Karnataka is not an easy job.
Much before the lockdown was declared, Yediyurappa was on the ground making plans to fight the disease. When it was declared, the handling of the strictest phase of lockdown was much better than other states.
He held several dozen meetings with all stake holders, including the opposition Congress and JDS to make it an all-party, apolitical fight. His warnings against giving a communal colour to the spread also worked well. Many Congress and JDS leaders who criticise his handling of the coronavirus crisis in public admit in private that Yediyurappa has done a fairly decent job.
From day one, he made the handling transparent by sharing every detail with the media and public. In the last 90 days, he has spoken to the media on almost every day (sometimes 2 to 3 times a day) and has held several dozen media briefings. A team of dedicated bureaucrats and police officials led by low profile chief secretary to Karnataka Government TM Vijayabhaskar and DGP Praveen Sood have also done a fine job in executing the orders.
“He has been working non-stop. He chairs half a dozen big and small meetings every day, meets everyone. He listens to them and takes immediate steps to solve their problems,” a senior official working with him said.
Karnataka’s already well-established medical care and other key infrastructures have also helped the state in battling the virus in the last three months. The repatriation of migrant workers to their states was earlier criticised after trains were stopped, but was managed better later and the supply chain of all essential goods was also handled well.
When it comes to education, public health, awareness and infrastructure, Karnataka and Kerala have many things in common. But Karnataka is five times larger than Kerala in size and has 6.5 crore people compared to Kerala’s less than 4 crore population.
A highly industrialised Karnataka had to face the huge challenge of sending lakhs of migrant workers back home. Their number was less in Kerala.
During the first two weeks of lockdown, Karnataka and Kerala almost came to blows over the closing of state border. Karnataka had closed over 30 entry and exit points with its southern neighbour alleging that Kerala was sending coronavirus infected people from the Malabar region into the northern state. After a war of words, peace was established and borders were opened.
In Kerala, over 1,29,971 people have been released from the 14-day quarantine, while another 1,20,727 people are currently in isolation either at home or at corona care centres and include 2,023 in hospitals.