When the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Kerala on 30 January, the state government immediately activated the first two stages of its action plan to provide medical care and contain the pandemic. This included 121 government hospitals and 57 private hospitals, which have a combined total of 2,328 isolation beds. In a press conference on 22 March, KK Shailaja, the state’s health minister, said that if the situation escalated, the state would move to the third stage of its plan, which would bring in several more government and private hospitals.
As of 26 March, Kerala has at least 126 confirmed COVID-19 cases. According to figures shared in a 26 March press conference by the chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, atleast 1,20,003 persons are currently under observation, of which 601 are in hospital.
SA Hafiz, a public health expert in the department of health, said that the management of infrastructure and human resources has been key to the government’s action plan. As per data from the Kerala health department, as of March 2017, the state had an existing infrastructure of 38,004 hospital beds at various government facilities ranging from general and district hospitals to primary health centres. “Apart from hospitals, we had identified COVID care centres where people are provided isolation facilities,” Hafiz told me. The government had set up care homes with a capacity of 4,000–5,000 people near its four airports where all international passengers are being kept under observation.
In a press conference on 26 March, Vijayan further outlined the state’s medical infrastructure capacity. “We are well prepared to tackle any situation arising out of the Covid-19 spread,” he said. “Apart from government hospitals, we have at our service 879 private hospitals in Kerala with 69,434 beds and 5,507 beds in ICU.” He added that “716 hostels with 15,333 rooms across the state have also been identified for converting them into isolation centres if required. Emergency maintenance works are being done to make these rooms ready.”
The government has also identified a list of isolation beds available in government and private hospitals in all of the state’s 14 districts. According to a health official, the state government’s latest plan involves having a dedicated public-sector hospital for COVID-19 patients. Further, over 200 buildings including government guest houses, private and government schools, colleges and hostels have been identified to set up care centres.