Home >Opinion >Columns >A condominium in battle-gear against the pandemic

Hello Mum, I’m much better today, thank you for asking about me every day." The message is being sent from a room in a hospital in Gurugram, by an expat manager who lives alone in an apartment in this condominium. As she reads it, she, the tower representative of a covid task force, smiles. It’s funny and touching when someone your age calls you ‘Mum’.

She cannot dwell on this too long because there are so many others who need support right now. She picks up the phone and contacts the office, “Apartment X, one person has tested positive, please initiate special garbage collection, home delivery and sanitization." Then she has to inform all other folks in her tower. She calls apartment X again and briefs them on the protocols, the help they will get, offers some soothing words, and gets information from them on all the part timers/full timers they employ and others in the condo they have been in touch with. This is information that will now go to the other volunteer group, of contact tracers. This is a new group that has come up in response to the new challenge.

Experts have advised tracing-testing-treating-containment-vaccination as the broad strategy against covid. There is no government body to enforce or facilitate tracking or containment. The Residents Welfare Association (RWA) and residents are filling in where they can. There are new needs, new challenges every day, and new people, from within, stepping up to help.

The contact tracers now call up all the other apartments that share help or have been in touch with the covid apartment and advise observation, and testing. People start taking measures to restrict their movements and most often test. Information on the next level of contact is also sought. And so it goes on, in an effort to contain the spread of infection and provide early warnings.

A first round of vaccination had already been arranged. A second round now looks very challenging, but efforts are on.

Meanwhile, the condominium’s meal support group is up and about, cooking and delivering to the doorsteps of those affected apartments that need it. Run like a langar, purely as a service.

There are those who have volunteered to provide support to senior citizens living alone. Often, all they need is someone to speak with, to help them deal with their anxieties and loneliness. Isolation can sap all the energy from your being.

About 48 hours ago, there was a mass testing camp for all staff and house help that had been organized by the RWA. And it threw up some nasty surprises. Many of those on the frontline of delivery, sanitization, cleaning and security tested positive. Staff shortages went up. Quick decisions on managing resources were taken and the existing staff agreed to step up. A grateful condominium has now set up a ‘gratitude fund’, run by the staff. It lets residents donate money to the staff who are putting themselves at risk daily to keep others safe and comfortable. No, money cannot buy everything, but it can certainly help to say, ‘Thank you’.

As the virus marches into more homes, more people are coming forward, driven to help those in need and because they know there is no one else to do it. The pictures of ambulances waiting outside hospitals and patients gasping for breath have had their own effect at galvanizing another group. This group, which includes medical practitioners, has come forth to form an ‘oxygen support centre’ for those in the condominium, offering a bridge until people are able to find institutional help. It’s tricky. There are liabilities and compliance requirements, but this group is working on them, determined to make this a reality. This has already helped people in dire need, being prepared made all the difference.

There is mass testing for residents underway. The RWA meets over Zoom, planning for all possible scenarios. While they hope that there will be no nasty surprises, they plan for the worst. Work is on to get additional help over the next few days, even as residents are informed of the challenges they are likely to face, the cooperation needed from them, and all that has been rolled out so far.

Constant communication within the condominium is helping people manage their anxieties better. Information on the number of infected people, apartments, their quarantine dates, the status of tests on helps, results, new measures for lifts, access given to outsiders—all this and more. It is a microcosm of a model that governments could use to learn how to build trust, transparency and then participation within a community. Yes, as always, there are outliers, the ones who look to trip others rather than help. But they have been overshadowed by the large number of residents who have come forward to help and be part of the battle.

It’s another day, 7:00am. Her phone rings. Sleepily, she reaches for the phone and hopes there is some good news. Rubbing her eyes, she answers. “Hello." “Hello Mum, the doctors releasing me today. I come home. I still got four more days quarantine. I come home."

She smiles. Not today, not tomorrow, but she knows that this too shall pass.

Sanjeev Roy is the founder of Bullzi Inc, co-author of ‘Here Today, Here Tomorrow’

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