States fine-tune strategies to fight COVID-19

RSTV Bureau
File Photo: Hospital

File Photo: Hospital

Even as the total number of COVID-19 patients in India surged to 2,902 on Saturday, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh registered a huge jump in the number of cases this week.

Delhi’s tally of confirmed cases rose to 384, after 91 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours. Only Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu had higher tallies at over 500 and 411, respectively. These three states are also among those reporting new cases, while Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh reported fresh deaths.

The Government is also keeping a close watch on some Coronavirus hotspots. These are Nizammudin and Dilshad Garden in Delhi, Noida and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, Bhilwara in Rajasthan, Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Kasaragod and Pathanamthitta in Kerala and Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra.

While a disease cluster is an area where 10 or more cases have been found, a hotspot is where several disease clusters have developed in a region.

Amid the increasing number of cases, states have honed their strategies to combat the pandemic. Some of the practices are proving to be replicable in other places as well.

Lessons from Kerala

Nearly 300 positive cases, over 40 cured, and two deaths.

These are the COVID-19 numbers on Saturday from Kerala, the state that reported its first and also the country’s first case in January.

Of the 295 positive cases that Kerala has seen so far, more than 200 came from abroad – essentially Malayalis residing in different parts of the world. Seven are foreign tourists, and nearly 80 people contracted the disease from primary contact.

Ever since a Wuhan University student became its first COVID-19 positive patient on January 30, 2020, Kerala has taken the lead in monitoring, isolating, testing and treating the people found positive.

Compared to the numbers from the worst affected state Maharashtra, its strategies seem to have made a radical difference.

Maharashtra reported its first positive case on March 9, 2020, 38 days after Kerala’s first case. But in less than a month, COVID-19 positive cases have touched nearly 500 in Maharashtra.

So what is Kerala doing right?

Over the last one month, Kerala strengthened its testing capabilities. Compared to just 574 samples on March 5, the state tested over 9,000 samples on April 3.

Along with speed, it has also intensified the testing. Earlier while only those with at least four to five symptoms of COVID-19 were being tested, now even people with just one or two symptoms are being tested.

And since rapid testing is not foolproof, people are being tested multiple times, and have been asked to stay quarantined at home for the prescribed period.

Close to 1,70,000 people have been quarantined, most of them at home. And to ensure that they don’t go out unnecessarily, the state government has ensured that essential items are home-delivered to them. For this, the government has enlisted thousands of volunteers.

Besides home delivering essentials, the volunteers also work in over 1300 community kitchens that are operating in all 941 Panchayats in the state and feed over 1,50,000 people daily.

These community kitchens cater to the poor who have been the worst-affected due to the lockdown. While the financially weak are given food at their doorstep for free, the rest of the public can buy meals at very nominal rates.

The state government is also giving free ration with an appeal to people to pay for food grains if they can. The differently-abled, the aged, and those quarantined are being home delivered rations.

With a large migrant workforce now stuck, the state government is making efforts to house and keep them disease-free. Over 5,000 camps have been set up for migrant labourers, where soaps, sanitisers and masks are provided. The state government has also brought out brochures and released videos in Hindi, Oriya and Bengali to spread its message.

The state government has also worked on communication. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan conducts a daily press briefing via video conferencing. Besides giving a daily report, he also reminds everyone about the need for social distancing.

Maharashtra Crosses 500 Mark

Novel Coronavirus positive cases in Maharashtra crossed the 500-mark on Saturday taking the number to 537. The state recorded 26 deaths, while 50 people have been cured of the infection.

Mumbai recorded the highest number of 28 cases on Saturday. Around 17 Maharashtra districts have so far been affected by the outbreak.

Government Initiatives

Cracking down on the growing number of cases, the state government is treating any area in a three km radius from where a patient was found as a containment zone and surveying it for possible cases of infection. Nearly 2455 teams are working across the state for the cluster containment.

The state government also created a digital platform to help citizens assess their symptoms from their homes and contact authorities if they have any doubts about their condition.

Its online self-assessment tool https://covid-19.maharashtra.gov.in/ allows authorities to have a real-time dashboard and track people with strong Coronavirus symptoms.

The platform also has dos and don’ts, helpline numbers and other information about the pandemic.

Further 30 govt hospitals have been designated as special facilities to treat affected patients. These hospitals have 2,305 designated beds for such patients.

The state government and the BMC also have plans to test thousands of its health workers to check if they have developed antibodies after being exposed to the Coronavirus. The BMC plans to test 10,000 healthcare personnel in the next 10 days.

The Maharashtra Government also announced a compensation of Rs 50 lakh to the relatives of police officers if they die on COVID-19 duty.

It has also deployed 1,600 BEST buses for essential services’ staff. The state government has also set up 163 centres across the state to provide food and water to migrant labourers and has launched the ‘Shiv Bhojan’ scheme that offers meals at Rs 5 from April 1.