Kerala’s Health Minister KK Shailaja’s relentless work in fighting and containing the spread of the novel coronavirus in the state has set a benchmark for world leaders. And, now she has been named as the winner of World’s Top 50 Thinkers of COVID-19 Age by UK-based Prospect Magazine. Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, is on the second place.

Shailaja was the “right woman in the right place,” the magazine noted.

“So deft was her handling of a 2018 outbreak of the deadly Nipah disease that it was commemorated in a film, Virus. In 2020, she was the right woman in the right place. When Covid-19 was still ‘a China story’ in January, she not only accurately foresaw its inevitable arrival, but also fully grasped the implications,” the magazine wrote about the Kerala Health Minister.

Shailaja Teacher

The former high school teacher-turned politician had earlier shared her experiences of tackling the Nipah virus and the two devastating floods that happened in 2018 and 2019 and how the state was able to recognise and contain the coronavirus outbreak at an early stage. She said she believes in the importance of the health sector and has been successfully securing a low fatality rate in the state.

What You Should Know

  • Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja named among ‘Top Thinker of the Year 2020’
  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern came in at the second place.
  • The minister, established a rapid response team and control rooms in the 14 districts as the first step to control the spread.

“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. Of course the virus returned, but there was rigorous surveillance and quarantine—sometimes in makeshift structures. The public messages have been consistent, and Shailaja follows them to the letter, with social distancing in all official meetings (which can go on until 10pm) and restricting herself to a Zoom-only relationship with her grandchildren,” the magazine further wrote.

Also Read: Kerala’s Rockstar Health Minister KK Shailaja, Fighting Corona Head On

Combating the coronavirus

The 63-year-old minister is known to have established a rapid response team and control rooms in the 14 districts as the first step to control the spread.  The state barred international flights two days before the country went into lockdown. Under her guidance, out of the 6.3 lakh migrant workers who were being sheltered in government run-camps across India, Kerala cared for around half – 47 percent, who were later slowly moved to their natives via charter trains, reported The Wire.

“Hopefully, Shailaja’s masterclass in public administration will boost the odds in the next and more difficult phase,” says the Prospect Magazine.

Meanwhile, at 38, Ardern became the country’s youngest Prime Minister and New Zealand’s third female prime minister. In the list, she has been recognised for her quick response to the pandemic. “Her governing ‘ethos of kindness’ was drawing interest as a refreshing (if hazy) alternative to neo-liberalism even before it showed practical results in keeping a lid on the crisis,” wrote the magazine. “It always sounded rather airy – until she showed how it could be put to practical effect in the coronavirus context, and achieved some of the world’s best results.”

Just behind her in the list is the Bangladeshi architect Marina Tabassum.

Also Read: Jacinda Arden To Be New Zealand’s Youngest PM

Read More Stories By Ria Das

Get the best of SheThePeople delivered to your inbox - subscribe to Our Power Breakfast Newsletter. Follow us on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook and on YouTube, and stay in the know of women who are standing up, speaking out, and leading change.