TODAY -

Ultimately the call for quick tracing of contacts

SK Singh *



India with around 80% or so of its 134 crore people in rural areas coupled with several millions crammed in urban slums is generally rated poor in the area of public health infrastructure and personal hygiene. Indians for that matter, the working class, even living in known-clean cities like Singapore, their places of stay are worst hit COVID-19 hot spots.

Among others, this factor could be one more important factor for rapid spread of the pandemic classed as most infectious. No wonder that it quickly secured third most infected country in the globe; that too any day it can outplace Brazil at second next only to USA.

Even this day the daily new infected person is increasing unabated. Nearly 53,000 new cases are reported in 24 hours, hitting all-high, just short of 27,00,000. Around 900 lives are lost in 24 hours; the death toll reaching 51,480.

The PM, however had time to complement the rural part of the country for setting examples in the COVID-19 fight.PM in his latest Mannki Baat radio address on Sunday 9 August, talked about many instances of exemplary efforts by locals and village Panchayets. He said, “I am told that Balveer Kaur, Sarpanch of village Treva, in Jammu built 30-bedded quarantine centre in her Panchayets. She even took around sprayer pump on her shoulder and does sanitization in the surrounding areas with volunteers”.

A few more such history sheets he talked about, but these are about a handful of dedicated persons leading the movement. These handfuls of instances are all right, are exemplary. But these are for sure instances few and far between. Large majority are on the sidelines and more worryingly, helping in spread by ignorantly not following the basic protocol of keeping safe physical distance and most importantly the basic hygiene.

Such lack of awareness or as we discussed earlier, humans are bound to falter, shun vigilance, here of isolation or alienation. Sooner than later, they tend to set free from these behaviors which they take as hindrance on their freedom and personal life. The result is what we see as local transmission fast and furious.

Densely populated districts like, IW, IE, TBL, CCP etc are already in the grip pf the local transmission. Remotely located Pherzwal district remains free from the deadly virus. This may be construed as not many people leave the district nor many visit it. Given this trend there should be in place some fresh strategy to combat the onslaught immediately.

The GOI may talk about declining Fatality Rate at 1.96%, Recovery Rate increasing at 70.77%, Death Toll still touching 47,033 deaths a day. The Centre tries to tone down the seriousness by asserting that 10 states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, UP, AP, West Bengal etc account for 80% of these fatalities. The fact however remains that smaller states are no better.

A desperate PM under severe duress called for tracing ‘contacts with infected persons within a span of 72 hours’. He further emphasized contact tracing, like in his familiar ways, to be taken as a ‘mantra’. Stressing the importance of this step, he reiterated that this step should be executed with the same earnestness as washing hands, maintaining social distance and wearing mask.

These had been and are excellent prescriptions, without doubt. The question is, are the people adhering to these prescriptions even remotely, let alone strictly? The answer across the country is a big ‘No’. We are not far behind. The existing protocol of contact tracing need be more vigorously implemented.

Recall even in comparatively small towns like Ukhrul, last week, the day as the lockdown was extended to 15 August, how people thronged market places, the Banks without a dose of physical distancing. Each may have a mask on, how about the contacts, shoulder to shoulder, hand to hand; it was a bizarre scene where people behaved nothing less than normal days. Such undesirable behaviors of the public certainly add to social spread of the contagious disease. Increasing the frequency of social spread, covering more areas, naturally leads to the dreaded ‘community spread’.

The scenario in our state is frightening, day in day out. The spike of new infection of people without travel history is on the rise. By evening of Monday, 17 August, 4687 are positive. More worrisome is the report of fresh 118 cases in a span of 24 hours. 1110 persons who had no travel history are this day, under treatment.

This phenomenon where people who are in the state althrough contacting the virus from somewhere around is definitely disturbing. The incidence of contacting is higher in more densely populated districts, like Imphal west, Thoubal, Churachandpur, Imphal East etc. The GOM consider-in-house treatment of patients with ‘mild’ condition, perhaps considering the success story of Delhi may be too hasty.

The living conditions in the leikais of, say, Imphal or Thoubal or Churachandpur, for that matter, may not be rated high. In any case it can’t be anywhere comparable to Delhi. Given this reality, could such a strategy lead to increase in the intensity of infection?

Immensely worried over the reality that the number of active cases in the country exceeds six lakh by Tuesday, 11 August, the PM took to video conferencing with these states to review the current scenario and how these could be improved by sharing experiences from each other. The only silver lining could be the consideration that the majority cases are from 10 states, NER excluded.

Recounting the experiences in UP, Delhi and Haryana where the incidence of the pandemic was critical earlier, a new road map was conceived by the MHA and NCR government and succeeded in tackling the proliferation of the pandemic as fast as before. He stressed that the main pillars of that strategy was, ‘segregation of containment zones, focus on screening, especially of those in high risk category’.

NCR government has already gained capital after starting ‘home treatment’ where patients with mild symptoms, those asymptomatic ones are under home treatment. Government doctors call them twice a day, or visit as required, to monitor their status. Kejriwal already boasts of huge 90% success in this strategy. Hospitals and staff are considerably at ease; non-covid patients have space for treatment without apprehension of contacting the virus.

The Secretary, Ministry of Health, emphasized on what he termed, ‘perimeter monitoring ‘of containment zones with the help of local communities. This measure need be discussed for further refinement in our case.

Even before we talk about ‘perimeter monitoring’, the kind of home treatment of mild cases and even, asymptomatic ones, being treated at home even where doctors and staff are available twice or so a day, could this be acceptable to the public?


* SK Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on August 20 2020 .



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