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File photo of a street in Bhilwara, Rajasthan. Nearly 1 million households in the city were tested to stop the virus’s spread. (Photo: PTI)
File photo of a street in Bhilwara, Rajasthan. Nearly 1 million households in the city were tested to stop the virus’s spread. (Photo: PTI)

Coronavirus: Want to contain the virus spread? Do it the Bhilwara way

  • From being a hotspot, the district has not reported a single confirmed case of coronavirus in the past five days
  • Cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba told states that they can explore adopting the Bhilwara model to control the spread

NEW DELHI : Just a week ago, Bhilwara was a source of alarm for policymakers. Today, the textile town in Rajasthan offers valuable lessons in the war against covid-19.

Credit it to a strict lockdown, strategic containment plan, or dedicated healthcare work, the district, till recently an emerging hotspot of coronavirus infections, has not reported any new coronavirus infections in the last five days.

Before enforcing a strict clampdown, Bhilwara was Rajasthan’s worst-hit district, with 27 cases, and stood out in the national count as well. However, no new cases have been reported since 2 April, and in fact, 17 have recovered. Two have died due to co-morbidities, while seven are on the road to recovery and 11 already discharged. In meetings with state government officials, Union cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba has pointed to the Bhilwara example, suggesting this as a possible model to contain the spread of covid-19.

How did Bhilwara manage to turn the tide?

While testing for covid-19 at the national level has been considered rather low, the state claims it has screened nearly 50 million people, and tested 11.7 million households so far. “Currently, 34 places are under curfew in Rajasthan. Things were also controlled with imposition of curfew. Two kilometre-area of any person found covid-19 positive is sealed and checks are done," chief minister Ashok Gehlot said, adding out of all cases in state, nearly 30-32 are evacuees from Iran at Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. Gehlot, however, expressed concern about cases with no history of either travel or contact with covid-19 patient.

“People with travel history or any contact with positive patients are being isolated and checked. We sealed the borders the day we got to know about the case of the doctor in Bangar Hospital being positive with the virus in Bhilwara and it is becoming a learning ground for us," said the chief minister, adding that since then, 2.2 million families from villages and nearly 1 million households in the city were tested to stop the spread of covid-19.

According to the Rajasthan government, health workers, home guards, police personnel, government officials and every other individual related to the screening of covid-19 patients are working without a break.

“We are now on a war-footing and are working in a six-part process beginning with the imposition of curfew, coordination work of police surveying colonies where the visitors of Bangar Hospital, where it all began, might be staying," said Harendra Mahawar, Superintendent of Police, Bhilwara.

The police reached out to more than 5,000 people who were consulted by the covid-19 positive doctor at Bangar Hospital. Further, officials also screened patients of in-patient department (IPD) and Out Patient Department (OPD). In order to break the chain of contamination, nearly 6,000 people were identified in just two days and put under isolation.

“We worked simultaneously on precaution and treatment. Both were done together to control the outbreak. We are regularly tracking the patients even after we release them. Lockdown has played a major role in breaking the chain," said Dr Mushtaq Khan, chief medical and health officer.

The administration has acquired 42 hospitals with dedicated beds for positive patients, and quarantine with 1,551 beds is prepared at hotels and other such establishments. Places have been identified where if needed, an infrastructure of 10,000-15,000 beds can be developed.

Confirming that the state has extended the lockdown for some more days, Rajendra Bhatt, district magistrate, Bhilwara said people will get all essential items and everything they need at their doorstep. “No shop, dairy, or medical store will be open. If people want something, they will directly call us, whether it is medicine, food or anything else. For this, at least 4-5 control rooms of several departments are being operated and we are fulfilling demands. It is a necessary step to control the outbreak and bring out a total covid-19-free Bhilwara in the coming few days," said Bhatt, adding screening of people will continue till the cases come to zero.

Bhatt said 2.5-3 million screenings have been done in the past few days and daily reports are being sent to either the district magistrate or superintendent of police. “We sealed the city and later, all district boundaries were strictly sealed. The population of the city has been screened at least three times now and people having normal cough and cold due to weather change (influenza-like illness), who were in thousands, were also checked and surveyed," he said, adding those having symptoms were put under isolation or quarantine.

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