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Doorstep testing, contact tracing: How Bengaluru’s Bommanahalli Zone is keeping COVID-19 at bay

From testing an eight-month-old infant at 4 am to a 92-year-old man at 11 pm, the facility has benefitted at least 35 people since its commencement on August 27.

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal | Bengaluru | Updated: September 9, 2020 8:31:20 am
While 1,01,626 cases are termed active by the Health Department, 39,472 among these are in Bengaluru alone. (Express photo)

Even as Bengaluru continues to report COVID-19 cases and fatalities, civic body officials at Bommanahalli Zone have come up with new ways to tackle the virus and ensure faster testing, contact tracing, and treatment to people. The latest addition to their approach is the round-the-clock doorstep testing facility, aimed at testing people of age and those living in high-risk areas.

“Emergency testing requests are made to our helpline number (8884666670) after which a dedicated team visits the residence to get the testing done. Most requests we have received to date are from people who are unable to step out to the nearby testing location due to their age and other related situations,” Sanjana BM, BBMP COVID-19 nodal officer for Bommanahalli Zone, told indianexpress.com.

From testing an eight-month-old infant at 4 am to a 92-year-old man at 11 pm, the facility has benefitted at least 35 people since its commencement on August 27.

The nodal officer said the new facility, which commenced on August 27, complements testing done at four different locations — attached to the primary healthcare centre of each ward — apart from targeted testing done for primary contacts of those who contract the infection and at places of high risk. Slum areas within the zone such as Mangammanapalya and Singsandra are also part of this targeted testing. Officials said the quick-pace of the facilities offered is ensured with the help of the local civic body’s collaborative efforts with the residents’ welfare associations (RWAs), Bangalore Apartments’ Federation, Changemakers of Kanakapura (an NGO), and volunteers. While the helpline’s command centre works out of the BDA Complex in HSR Layout, a team of six volunteers work in different shifts to reach residences of people seeking tests done at home.

“Once we get the details we speak to the person in need directly to verify and determine the level of emergency at which the test should be done. We reach their residence — mostly alone wearing a PPE kit — and get a Rapid Antigen Test at first. Meanwhile, details of their contact and travel history will also be recorded to help faster tracing. Another swab will be collected and sent for RT-PCR testing only if the person tests negative in rapid test,” said Nikhil K T, a volunteer in the team.

While the results of Rapid Antigen Test can be obtained within 15 to 20 minutes, the volunteer ensure that a bed is reserved at the nearest COVID Care Centre/hospital and an ambulance is arranged. A triaging team is also alerted to arrive at the patient’s home. “The team then tries to obtain the patient code (after registering details on the Health Department’s records via BBMP) to complete all other related processes including informing the primary contacts of the same and ferrying the person to the treatment facility within the next 90 minutes,” Sanjana said.

At least 98 ambulances embedded with GPS trackers have been located across 16 wards coming under Bommanahalli Zone to ensure they reach the needy on time, officials said.

As many as 4,483 people have tested positive in the zone between August 25 and September 7, of which 1,052 patients have been shifted to dedicated hospitals and 475 to COVID Care Centres. Over 2,400 patients are under home isolation at present, as per statistics shared by the Zone.

Most cases in the zone are from Uttarahalli (528), Bommanhalli (513), and Singasandea (401) wards.

Appreciating the efforts of the Bommanahalli team, Chief Secretary T M Vijay Bhaskar directed officials across Bengaluru to implement the model at their respective zones as well to enhance action taken in the city to contain the pandemic.

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