Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja Teacher has been named the winner of Top 50 Thinkers of 2020, a list compiled by UK’s Prospect Magazine. The Kerala Health Minister beat New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to top the global list while the latter came a close second. The magazine has lauded the health minister’s efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve.
Identifying her as a communist, the magazine describes her as ‘indefatigable’ and also lauds Kerala’s deft handling of the 2018 Nipah virus outbreak, under Shailaja teacher’s leadership. In early 2020, when COVID-19 was still limited to China, Shailaja teacher foresaw its inevitable arrival in India and took adequate measures to handle the virus.
“The top spot was overwhelmingly secured by a figure who—on first blush—is as far from a caricature intellectual of the Jean-Paul Sartre variety as you can get. That’s not quite right since, like Sartre, KK Shailaja is a communist, albeit from a party created to keep its distance from Soviet Moscow. It helps run the state of Kerala in south India, where Shailaja or “Teacher,” as she is fondly nicknamed due to a previous occupation, is the indefatigable health minister.”
“Cases and deaths were kept remarkably low into the summer, although as it drew to a close they began to grow fast—just as Shailaja had warned they would. Still, as we go to press, confirmed Covid-19 deaths in the state—which has average incomes an order of magnitude lower than Britain’s, and just over half the population—were not yet 1 percent of ours,” the magazine write-up added.
It also added that in the minister’s ‘masterclass in public administration will boost the odds in the next and more difficult phase’ that the state will witness.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kerala has received recognition from all corners of the world for its handling of the pandemic.
Referring to Shailaja teacher’s efforts, the magazine says “She rapidly got the WHO’s full “test, trace and isolate” drill implemented in the state, and bought crucial time by getting a grip of the airports, and containing the first cases to arrive on Chinese flights.”
In June 2020, Shailaja Teacher was among the world leaders invited to speak on UN Public Service Day, held to honour those working on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UN brought together world leaders in a virtual conference to speak on the importance of the continuation of public service provisions during the pandemic. The conference, which the health minister was part of, looked at the approaches different countries adopted to mitigate the crisis.