tharoor140_ARUN CHANDRABOSEAFP via Getty Images_keralaindiacoronavirus Arun Chandrabose/AFP via Getty Images

The Kerala Model

It is no accident that the southwestern Indian state of Kerala has fared better than many others in the COVID-19 crisis. The state has a long tradition of investing in its people and institutions, and of fostering a civic and political culture of mutual respect, trust, and compassion.

NEW DELHI – As India’s 1.3 billion people struggle to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the country’s 28 states stands head and shoulders above the rest. Kerala, in southwestern India, has been so successful in “flattening the curve” that many now speak admiringly of a “Kerala Model” for handling public-health emergencies.

Kerala was the first Indian state to report a case of COVID-19 – a medical student who had arrived from Wuhan, China, at the end of January. When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown on March 24, Kerala had the most cases of any state. Yet today, it ranks low on the list of confirmed cases, and high on the list of COVID-19 recoveries. Moreover, the state’s fatality rate (0.53%) is the lowest in India, and it has managed to limit the spread of the virus without inflicting any of the human suffering seen in other parts of the country.

Kerala’s formula for success has been straightforward. Public-health authorities have prioritized early detection through extensive testing, widespread contact tracing, and 28-day quarantines for all those infected (the rest of India, following the World Health Organization’s guidance, has required only 14 days).