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Close to hotspot Varanasi, Sonbhadra village junks Covid protocols, lives in no-case bubble

Sonbhadra district has reported overall 11,844 positive cases, of which 3,772 are active cases. According to government record, 121 people have died of Covid in the district.

Written by Avaneesh Mishra | Sonbhadra |
Updated: April 30, 2021 6:53:48 am
Uttar Pradesh, COVID-19, Uttar Pradesh coronavirus cases, Varanasi covid protocols, Sonbhadra Covid protocols, UP covid-19 cases, UP news, india news, indian expressDuring voting for the panchayat polls. (Express Photo)

SITUATED LESS than 40 km from the border of Varanasi, the third most-affected district in Uttar Pradesh in active Covid case count, Sonbhadra’s Sukrit village is not worried about the pandemic – and its fatal impact. Villagers claim no case has been reported here. The worst the pandemic has done, according to them, is the lockdown.

On Thursday, during the last phase of panchayat elections, the villagers stood in long queues in close proximity amid tight security outside Sukrit Composite Vidyalaya, the polling station. Only a few had their face masks on – not because they were wary of Covid but because the administration had ordered so. It was the same inside the polling station – no social distancing and few masks.

“Since the start of the coronavirus last year, we never had a single positive case. After lockdown was clamped last year, a lot of migrant workers returned to the village from Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Mumbai but no confirmed case was reported. So for us, coronavirus is something we have never seen or felt,” said Mathura Prasad Jaiswal, who was helping polling officials maintain law and order at the polling station.

“However, we know about the protocols set by the government. Some follow them, some don’t.”

Sonbhadra district has reported overall 11,844 positive cases, of which 3,772 are active cases. According to government record, 121 people have died of Covid in the district.

Sonbhadra Additional District Magistrate Yogendra Bahadur Singh told The Indian Express that the district has only one dedicated Covid treatment centre at a Government Combined Hospital.

“The hospital has 300 Covid beds and around 100 of them have oxygen facility. In case we need more beds, we can increase the infrastructure as per requirements. However, we do face several issues as even after regular surveillance a lot of people don’t get tested in time and come to the hospital only when it is too late,” Singh said, adding that the district has conducted around 2.5 lakh tests since last year.

He said District Magistrate Abhishek Singh is among those who have tested positive, and is in home isolation with mild symptoms.

Outside the polling station, Owais Raza, a 20-year-old graduate, said the reason why Sukrit has not reported a single case could also be because of lack of testing in the village. “Though I am not sure, but I don’t think anyone in the village got tested for the virus,” he said.

“Last year when migrants were returning from different paces, they were stopped and put in quarantine. But looking at the current situation I don’t think the same would be followed if the country goes into a lockdown again,” he said.

Some others said even weekend lockdown are not followed in the village. They do not, however, blame the administration. Many people still believe that the pandemic is a hoax, they said.

Only recently, during the panchayat polls, taking cognizance of a news report that said 135 people on election duty had died of Covid, the High Court issued notices to the UP State Election Commission, seeking an explanation by May 3 as to why it failed in checking non-compliance of Covid guidelines during the panchayat elections.

The court had directed the Election Commission to take measures for the last phase of panchayat elections to ensure that the guidelines are complied with. Action will be taken against officials if they failed to do so, the court had said.

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