With over 80% of the coronavirus positive cases traced to 62 districts across the country, the government may continue restrictions there, once the lockdown ends, on the lines of what is being unofficially called ‘the Bhilwara model’. After the Rajasthan district emerged as a hotspot for COVID-19, the authorities sealed it, and carried out a survey of more than 20 lakh residents. Compared to 26 positive cases in 11 days till March 30, Bhilwara has seen a single case in the past week.
Of the total 27 cases, 17 have recovered and nine discharged.
Rajasthan’s Additional Chief Secretary, Health, Rohit Kumar Singh described the Bhilwara model as one involving “ruthless containment”. Within hours of the first case, on March 18, the district had started door-to-door survey. The Health Department and district administration in Bhilwara constituted nearly 850 teams and conducted house-to-house surveys of 56,025 houses and nearly 2.81 lakh people. Intense contact tracing was carried out of those who tested positive, with detailed charts of all they had met.
By March 26, 6,445 people suspected to have been exposed were in home quarantine. By March 27, 22 lakh out of Bhilwara’s estimated population of 30 lakh had been surveyed, by teams comprising doctors, auxiliary nurse midwives and nursing students. Most of the houses were surveyed more than once to rule out the infection. The Health Department used an app to monitor those under home quarantine.
“Surveying, combing, screening and testing — we stuck to these four points, along with home quarantine and isolation,” said Bhilwara District Collector Rajendra Bhatt.
The strict curfew in Bhilwara meant shops remained closed. Police ensured doorstep supplies to the public while raw materials were provided to the needy and meals to the poor.
Bhilwara SP Harendra Mahawer ensured enforcement of the lockdown with the help of police and home guards while an Army unit was kept on standby in Ajmer.
Starting April 3, Bhilwara started a 10-day “maha-bandh”, with even passes of mediapersons and NGOs revoked.
What prompted the swift action by the authorities was that the virus had spread in the district from doctors and medical staff, especially a prominent private hospital of Bhilwara, which is a thriving textile city with a large number of migrant workers.
Bhatt said, “While other districts had their patient zero identified, we faced high uncertainty. Hence we had to survey the entire district to resolve that uncertainty… We had a video conference with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, where we sought his permission to impose a curfew in the district… The abrupt curfew and sealing of the borders, with no relaxation, helped us check the spread initially.”
Bhatt credits the CM and the Additional Chief Secretary, Health, with ensuring that the officials had everything they needed, including Personal Protective Equipment and N95 masks.
Of the 27 positive cases in Bhilwara, three were doctors and 14 nursing staff, and the rest their patients or attendants. The first death was of a 73-year-old on March 26, who had underlying medical conditions. A second patient, a 60-year-old who had co-morbidities, died hours later.
The patients in Bhilwara were administered hydroxychloroquine, Tamiflu and anti-HIV drugs.
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