Covid-19: The uphill battle to save pandemic-hit Bhilwara - - Telling the truth- always!

Covid-19: The uphill battle to save pandemic-hit Bhilwara

JAIPUR: Rishi Sharma begins his day with prayers to keep himself safe. He has a town to save. Bhilwara.
The 24-year-old government nursing staffer is part of a huge team of 1,500 health workers and 2,400 police personnel undertaking the country’s largest screening exercise for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) after 13 cases of virus infection surfaced in Bhilwara,
The magnitude of the task feels overwhelming. The textile town of 6 lakh people in Rajasthan is under curfew. Bhilwara’s borders have been sealed and the vast majority of the population is struggling for essential services. Officials said they have planned three rounds of screening and expect to complete the first round in the next two days.
So far, 5,392 persons in Bhilwara have been told to quarantine themselves at home, probably the most in any city in the country, and 38 have been put in isolation wards so far, after three doctors and nine healthcare workers from the city’s Banger Hospital were declared Covid-19 positive last week. A family member of one of these doctors, too, tested positive, taking the total number of infections to 13 till Tuesday.
Rishi Sharma’s (name changed) family watches him head out into this world of invisible danger with a mixture of dread and pride, and plenty of do’s and don’ts, but from a safe distance. They know their son is the only person from their locality going out every day to save a city from doom. “Emotionally it is very draining for my family who know the danger of my job. My mother keeps messaging me and calls me to know whether everything is all right,” says Sharma. He and others in the screening team of 1,500, split into smaller units to cover more ground and work 8 to 10 hours every day. He goes from home to home collecting information vital to identifying Covid-19 suspects in pandemic-hit Bhilwara.
The health workers include doctors, nursing staff and anganwadi workers working round the clock with assistance from the police and home guards.
CMHO Mushtaq Khan said the screening process will be challenging because the potential carriers (those who had visited Banger Hospital) are spread across the district. “So far, 38,000 houses have been screened. The remaining 25,000 houses will be screened in the next three days. The second and third phases will be in areas which will have positive cases,” the CMHO said.
So far, all 13 cases have been linked to the city’s Banger hospital. The local administration has identified for the second phase areas where positive cases are likely. “A total of 120 people related to the last two cases have been quarantined and samples of 78 have been sent to the labs. If anyone is found to be virus-positive we will restart the process of screening the entire area based on their location,” Khan said.
The sense of fear widespread, so much so that people are losing confidence and being uncooperative with the health workers.
“People are paranoid that health workers will infect them. Secondly, rumours that once the suspect is taken he/she will never come back are preventing them from cooperating. Sometimes one household takes half an hour to give us the required information, further delaying the process,” said Subhash Goyal, a health worker in Bhilwara.
Meanwhile, in many areas families have reported shortages of milk, veggies, food grains and medicines. “We have decided not to touch anything coming from outside, like milk and veggies, or to entertain any person from outside, even if we have to starve,” says Akram Khan, a resident of Bhilwara’s Chippa Mohalla.
The stillness deep in the city is eerie, says Sharma, who accompanies an aanganwadi worker. “Sometimes it’s scary moving into the interiors without hearing any human voice. The fear escalates when we knock on doors but get no response,” says Sharma.
Strangely, such is the sense of fulfilment of a job well done that Sharma likens finding a person with virus symptoms to hitting the jackpot. “Our aim is to identify suspects and inform the doctors. The feeling doubles when the doctor, based on my input, says the patient must self-quarantine or takes him/her to the isolation ward,” says Sharma.
At the end of a working day, any elation changes to anxiety when he heads home, back to the family he loves, even after following all sanitising protocols. “I have maintained a distance from the family and I keep away from my parents and my nephews. They also do not interact with me too much,” Sharma says over the phone from Bhilwara.
The health workers are received well in some places but households sometimes question their motives. “Many Muslim households try to confirm whether we are part of an NPR or NRC team,” said Sharma.
Curfew was imposed in nine villages in Mandal tehsil of Bhilwara district late Monday night after three persons with apparent symptoms of Covid-19 were found loitering about the rural area earlier in the day. The villages are Balsaira, Kadukota, Srinagar, Gokulpura, Dhumandas, Powderdas, Rupehela, Chatrapur and Schola. “The measure will help healthcare workers screen all nine villages,” Bhilwara SP Harendra Kumar said on Tuesday.
Around 2,400 police personnel are at the front of the battle in Bhilwara. They don’t have a manual to help them deal with a pandemic of this scale so they are following a 10-point guideline that tells them, among other things to eat a hearty breakfast and sanitise their batons and vehicles before the day begins.
“It is an unprecedented situation for all of us and we are following all guidelines and turning to experience to maintain the confidence of the police force,” Bhilwara SP Harendra Kumar says. The SP’s office has been regularly updating its staff via WhatsApp groups on how to keep themselves, and other, safe.
The advisory says that every policeman starts his/her day by wearing a fresh face mask and refilling a water bottle. Before leaving home they have to self-check their health status. Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms is advised to report to the doctor.
“The job is very distressing due to prolonged hours and the danger. It has been advised to share light jokes and motivational quotes to keep confidence high, said Kumar.

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