Textile businessman Tejas Patel (45) was at the Surat Municipal Corporation’s community hall in Paal area Tuesday to attend a wedding, when a mobile van and the bustle around it caught his eye. Health department staff in personal protective equipment (PPE) coveralls stood outside the venue to test each invitee before they stepped into the hall.
A resident of Surat’s Adajan area, Patel was there to attend the wedding of his friend Rajesh Sherdiwala’s daughter and was caught off guard when he was requested to take a rapid antigen test (RAT) for coronavirus. Unsure, Patel initially denied to take the test. Later, Sherdiwala convinced him to undergo the test.
As the marriage season commenced amid the pandemic, the SMC’s health department has rolled out an initiative to conduct Covid-19 tests outside wedding venues to prevent the gatherings from turning into mass spreaders. Dhanvantri Rath or special Covid-19 patrol vans, equipped with doctors and paramedical staff, have been deployed outside wedding venues across the city as a part of the initiative since Monday, civic officials said.
Sherdiwala said that all his guests, including Patel, had tested negative and were allowed to attend the function. “Safety of our guests was the priority, so we had arranged for masks and sanitiser bottles at the venue and deployed two persons at the hall’s entrance to hand it over to each person entering. The SMC’s health department officials later set up a Dhanvantri Rath and tested each attendee, including the bride and the groom, free of charge. We had to explain to some of the guests that the tests were for the safety of invitees,” he said.
The state government has recently capped the number of guests at weddings to 100. Social distancing and wearing masks at all time are a must at such events, the government notification said.
The civic body’s drive, Dr Ketan Garasiya, the municipal health officer at Rander zone, said was launched Monday and rapid antigen tests were conducted on everyone present at a wedding venue, including the event organisers, their family, invitees, caterers, and photographers.
“On Monday, Covid-19 tests were conducted on 190 persons at six community halls and marriage halls in the Rander zone and no positive cases were noted. On Tuesday, 140 tests were conducted at other marriage halls in Rander zone and no positive cases were detected. We are ensuring that everyone including caterers, photographers, and musicians, undergo the tests mandatorily as they attend different marriage events and might become super-spreaders,” Garasiya said. The drive will continue till the end of the marriage season, he added.
Apart from RAT, the civic team also perform thermal, oxygen-mapping, and pulse-oximeter tests at the wedding venues, the civic official said. “We have decided that if a young person is tested positive but is asymptomatic, he/she will be quarantined at their home. In case an elderly person tests positive, he/she will be referred to SMIMER or NCH hospitals based on their health condition,” Garasiya added.
The civic corporation Tuesday conducted 653 antigen tests in all the eight municipal zones in Surat. Those covered under the drive include 308 caterers, 131 staff of mandap decorators and electricians, 34 photographers, and 108 others. No positive cases were detected, officials said. On Monday, 191 antigen tests were conducted and no positive cases were found.
A Covid-19 flying squad of the SMC, meanwhile, had slapped a penalty of Rs 5,000 on a wedding organised at Jaykishan Wadi, an open plot, on Monday after officials noted violation in social-distancing norms.
Currently, Surat city has 505 active cases. So far, Surat city has recorded a total of 32,158 cases and 760 fatalities. At least 30,014 people have recovered — 93.33 per cent recovery rate.
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