Published: 08th April 2020
This Kerala man helped in the safe evacuation of stranded students in Italy and has been leading the war on Corona ever since
Shyam Kurup received a video on WhatsApp about a few stranded students in Italy. With the help from Karnataka Ministry, the students and a pregnant woman were evacuated safely within seven days
A group of Indian students were stuck in Italy. After four days of staying at the airport, they put out. Video in anguish. Their video went viral and eventually reached a WhatsApp group to which belonged Shyam Kurup, an NDRF volunteer from the year 2015. Sitting at home, Shyam's team helped in mobilising the students to a safer space and finally evacuated them within seven days!
On March 10, Shyam received a message in his group about the stranded Indian students in Italy. Things were not as dire as it is right now, but the case in Italy was a different story. Italy was under lockdown, and people were rushing to get back to their natives at the earliest so that they don't fall prey to the Coronavirus. "The students made a video about how they had booked tickets but were stopped from travelling as they did not have the necessary certificates to prove that they were COVID-19 negative. The test results would reach late, but, as they were in the airport, there were chances of them getting infected. Also, once they got out from their respective homes or hostels in Italy, they were not allowed to enter again. Obviously, our of fear of the virus," explains Shyam.
Shyam has been an active volunteer with the NDRF
Shyam, with the help of a few friends, formed a WhatsApp group. They added every Indian student in Italy. Also, they came to know that there was a pregnant woman amongst them who was also stranded with the panicked crowd. "We added a few people in the media into the WhatsApp group. When they came to know about the condition of the kids, they set to action. The students were interviewed online, and the government came to know about the kids as well. Meanwhile, our main aim was to evacuate the pregnant woman at the earliest. So, I wrote a Facebook post sharing the details and the condition of the woman. Kannada actor Jaggesh shared my post on Twitter and tagged the Karnataka Health Ministry. I got in touch with Minister of Health and Family Welfare excluding Medical Education of Karnataka B Sriramalu through WhatsApp who promised to evacuate the woman at the earliest but couldn't promise on the rest of the students," shares the 39-year-old.
But all the 13 students' lives were important, and something had to be done. Shyam, on the same night that he receiving the video from the students, on March 10, mailed it to V Muraleedharan, Union Minister of State for External Affairs through his friend Bindu Satyajith. The minister forwarded the same to the Centre and the very next day, the medical team from India reached Rome," Shyam informs.
Shyam and his team are actively involved in renovating the old ambulances such that they can be used as isolation wards later
Shyam and his friends also managed to book the tickets for all the stranded students. Though the pregnant lady was evacuated within a day or two from March 10, the students' struggle was far from over. "Since their COVID-19 negative certificate had to come, we had to wait till then. Meanwhile, they did not have food. So we tried to arrange food with the help of a few good samaritans in Italy. Finally, we managed to arrange a flight to Ethiopia. From Ethiopia, all the students flew to India without much hassle. The students finally reached on March 18. It was one hell of a ride to us because everything had to happen legally and meantime, the students should also not contract the virus," he recollects and adds, "None of them tested positive but to ensure safety, all of them are home quarantined for 14 days." Shyam informs us that things were possible due to the strong support from the Karnataka government.
Shyam is presently volunteering with National Health Mission
Though Shyam played a vital role in this mass evacuation, he did not sit back and relax. Even though the students returned back to their homes, safe, Kerala reported the first Corona positive patient in India. Immediately, Shyam decided to get on the field. "With a few young volunteers, we set up a help desk in Alappuzha, which is first of its kind in Kerala. Almost 5000 people are home-quarantined in Alappuzha. We sought help from a Bangalore-based company Billionlives and introduced the software Coronacare at the desk. The software which has a pre-recorded voice, calls all the individuals who are under home quarantine. The individual has to follow the voice instruction and select the number according to their symptoms if any. The results are noted by our healthcare workers," he informs adding, "With the help of our flood volunteers group in WhatsApp, we are also renovating the old ventilators and ambulances so that they can be used as isolation wards if need be. It is important to be prepared as there are chances of community spread. In that front, I would definitely say that Alappuzha is prepared to face the challenge."
Being the Vice President of Aries Group of Companies, Shyam has been a frontline worker since the outbreak of Corona in Kerala. And how does he manage? "I stay at a hotel arranged for frontline workers by the Alappuzha district administration. I go once in a while to my home. Also, when on the field it is necessary to take precautionary measures like wearing masks, using hand sanitisers and so on," he signs off.