A mask, gloves, headgear and three to four pocket hand sanitisers are the essential items without which Kolkata Police constable Amit Mondol never steps out of home.
Mondol, who has recovered from Covid-19, is back to discharging his duties and working overtime.
He is one of the scores of law-enforcement officials helping out people at such distressing times. From donating plasma to Covid-19 patients and delivering essentials to those quarantined at home to enforcing lockdown, taking care of senior citizens living alone, and arranging transport for patients and even the deceased — the police have done it all in the last six months.
But the cost of being on the frontline of the anti-Covid efforts has been the infection of 1,700 personnel in Kolkata alone, and the death of 19 police officials across the state, including 10 in the city. The latest to succumb to the virus was Assistant Commissioner of Police (Central Division) Uday Shankar Banerjee, who died in a private hospital on Friday.
The pandemic has prompted the city police to change its Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) in stations. Officials living in barracks have been asked to move to rented houses, and a mobile application called “Niramoy” has been launched to monitor the health of personnel.
Commissioner of Police (CP) Anuj Sharma told The Sunday Express, “I am proud of the way #TeamKP is tackling the situation and is doing duties beyond its normal call in fighting against the pandemic. Their role during [Cyclone] Amphan, which ravaged the city, has also been well appreciated. We are in regular touch with our citizens and trying to fulfill their needs. Being frontline warriors and due to our nature of duty a number of our men have been infected and we have lost personnel to this pandemic. However, on the brighter side the recovery rate has been extremely high.We issued a SOP to our men to follow while working in these trying times. We have launched an app, ‘Niramoy’, which keeps a tab on the health of each and every personnel.”
The 30-page SOP details the steps police officials need to follow to protect their health. It was prepared using suggestions from junior officers, doctors and virologists. Following this change in SOP, many police stations have set up special cubicles to maintain social distancing. During “naka checking” at crossings, officials have been advised to scrutinise documents from a distance, and wear gloves while touching them.
The public’s movement to police stations, traffic guards, and field offices has been restricted. Stations are now required to set up a visitors’ area where people will be allowed entry only after a thorough checking and sanitisation. If possible, segregated parking spots for government vehicles, staff vehicles and visitors’ vehicles have to be established, according to the SOP.
To ensure the force does not buckle under stress, police personnel were being regularly counselled, said officials. If visitors display Covid symptoms, they have to be immediately moved to a healthcare facility. Sneeze guards, glass separators, transparent polycarbonate windows or table-top dividers have to be installed.
“Nearly a thousand [police personnel] have recovered. Many others are either under treatment at hospitals or have been home quarantined,” said Joint CP (Crime) Murlidhar Sharma.
Meanwhile, the “Niramoy” app has been designed to monitor the health of officials, especially those in the vulnerable age group, round the clock. The average of those infected is 40 years and above. The app will provide real-time information about the personnel who are sick and in quarantine, and display the number of infected policemen in each department.
Sharma told The Indian Express, “It is the brainchild of Commissioner of Police Anuj Sharma. The app is designed for round-the-clock online monitoring of the health status of all Kolkata Police personnel. We will be able to access the health of our people on a real-time basis and those fighting Covid could be monitored closely.”
Those who report sick will have their name and phone numbers uploaded on the app, and a team will monitor their symptoms. Their health status will be updated once they recover.
For constable Amit Mondol, the 10 days he spent in a hospital were tough on him and his family. He tested positive July 7, and opted for hospitalisation despite showing mild symptoms. After getting discharged from the facility, he was told to isolate at home. But, he went to a hotel and lived there for 10 more days. He returned to work on August 3 after completing quarantine.
“I was admitted to CNCI hospital for 10 days. My parents and my wife stayed at home. My job included public handling and phone recovery. A random test was conducted after another staff was tested positive. I had no symptoms as such so when my report came positive it came as a shock but I knew I will fight back,” he said.
Sub-Inspector (Reserve Officer) Kazi Rabiul Islam, 54, said he too was worried after testing positive on May 5 but did not panic.
“We have been fighting this pandemic as frontliners. We have seen people closely and how they recover. So I was worried after I saw the report but I didn’t panic. We deal with the public. We often go to the field because of law-and-order issues. It is our duty, we cannot keep thinking about Covid all the time. We have to fight it positively,” he said.
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