For Bindu and Girija, two frontline health workers in the fight against coronavirus in Kerala, the day starts early. They have to visit at least 25-30 houses everyday and these also include those in quarantine for COVID-19.
Over 70,000 people have returned to Kerala in the last few weeks – over 90 per cent from other states. Kerala has an ambitious task – to follow-up daily with each person who has come back to the state and currently is in quarantine. Tracking the increasing numbers are an army of footsoldiers, including 26,000 accredited social health activists, police, health inspectors, and local self-government bodies across the state.
The healthcare workers’ families are scared for them. Many are encouraging.
“My mother is scared for me. She calls me and cries everyday. But my husband and daughter say whatever happens, we are in it together,” Girija Kumari R, an ASHA worker told NDTV.
“COVID-19 duty is hard. We have to submit updates only after we go to the location of the different people in quarantine. We then follow-up with calls. Initially, we were scared because we have children at home. But now we ready for anything,” Bindu R, a mother of two told NDTV.
Surveillance of the quarantined in Kerala is being done in two ways – by physically visiting people at their homes and also through phone calls, ensuring regular updates.
“Every health circle has been given a log-in ID. We have to confirm whether the concerned person is following quarantine rule or not, every single day,” Health Inspector SS Minu said.
For most health workers, work related to COVID-19 is in addition to their regular duties – like checking on pregnant women, senior citizens or even pre-monsoon awareness drives about possible diseases.
And it’s not just the health workers – thousands of police personnel in Kerala who have been at the forefront of strictly enforcing the lockdown during the earlier stages, are also ensuring quarantine rules are being followed at homes.
“We visit people, call people. We ask them if they need anything. If they need food or any provisions. We give them our numbers. And we also ensure that they are in their homes. These are unprecedented times, and we are doing what we can to protect people,” Circle Inspector Anil Kumar told NDTV.
Their work has earned them many admirers.
“I was first at an institutional quarantine and now in strict home quarantine after I returned from Chennai. My day begins with a call from an ASHA worker enquiring about my health and if I need any support. Even the police have been calling me. I think during times like these, it gives us immense confidence that there is nothing to worry about,” Arvind Soju, admin of a popular Facebook group said.
“Impeccable service from Kerala police, health workers, and local self-help groups. This is my sixth day in home quarantine, and all of them are keeping me comfortable, and my locality safe. I even got a call on Sunday, asking me if I needed cooked food since it was a full lockdown,” retired Commander Ajai Vadakkath said.