Kerala government’s efforts and strategy to tackle the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 has invited widespread coverage and praise from across the country as well as outside the country. While the government is up in the arms with all possible measures, cooperation of the public along with other organisations—both political and apolitical—plays an important role.
When the second wave of virus hit the state, the state was witnessing shortage of face masks and hand sanitisers. A number of bodies then stepped in voluntarily and ensured availability of face masks and sanitisers. A public sector undertaking in Alappuzha—owned by the state government through the State Drugs and Pharmaceuticals (KSDP)—started producing hand sanitisers in order to tackle their scarcity and high pricing. So far, more than one lakh bottles of hand sanitisers have been made available.
A 500 ml bottle of sanitizer from KSDP costs Rs 125 while the market value of 100 ml sanitisers bottle from private companies is between Rs 150 and Rs 200.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also directed tailoring units in the prisons of the state to sew face masks.
Apart from the government, Chemistry departments in various colleges across the state, the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), Students’ Federation of India (SFI), various trade unions, Kudumbasree units, etc. tried to help the availability of the two items.
“Every unit of DYFI had taken this issue up and started making cotton masks with the help of local tailors. Almost a week ago, more than 50,000 masks had been distributed by various units. The process is going on and units are still involved in this work,” Lijith G, Kannur district committee member of DYFI told NewsClick.
“As we have been directed not to conduct public gatherings, we are not going from door to door to conduct awareness campaigns. In fact, each and every unit has put up posters listing the directions from the Health Department and the government,” he said.
“To support the government’s ‘Break the Chain’ awareness campaign, we installed handwash corners in public places including offices, bus stops, markets, etc. In certain areas, where these hand-washing facilities could not be made available, sanitisers have been kept for the public,” Lijith added.
Chemistry and microbiology departments of a number of colleges, too, have been distributing sanitisers to the public for free with the help of volunteers and police personnel.
“In Payyannur, Chemistry department of Payyannur College assisted in the process of making sanitisers. Njekli unit of DYFI in Kannur has manufactured more than 250 bottles of sanitisers and distributed those among the locals. So has Pappinissery block committee of DYFI,” added Lijith.
With the COVID-19 scare, the blood banks in hospitals across the state, too, were witnessing shortage. “Here, in Kannur Government hospital, DYFI volunteers have been donating blood for last six days. We ensure at least 30 units of blood a day here,” he told NewsClick.
The youth organisation has also been ensuring availability of free meals to patients and their caretakers at all major government hospitals. “We were collecting cooked food packets from households. But, now, as the situation demands precaution and physical distancing, we, in Kannur, cook food at a particular place and pack it from there itself and distribute at the hospitals. Through this, we can reduce risk with minimum contact. Otherwise, our volunteers could have gone to at least 400 households a day to collect food packets,” he explained.
SFI, too, has been involved in the process of making hand sanitisers and face masks. When the board exams were underway, SFI units ensured the availability of sanitisers for the students. On Friday, students decided to clean the public buses to ensure safety of passengers.
“We collected masks, gloves and bleaching powder, etc. from the health centres and we cleaned the state-owned buses. A small group of students in every depot of KSRTC led this cleaning. I was part of this process at Thamarassery depot,” said Syed Muhammed Sadique, Kozhikode district committee member of SFI.