IT’S been 10 days since Punjab’s coronavirus hotspot Nawanshahr last saw a positive case. The district, now officially known as Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, recorded 19 of Punjab’s 69 cases, and one of its seven deaths. Eight have now recovered, and all the others are doing well. None needed ventilator care.
The district had been put under complete lockdown after the death of a gurdwara granthi who had returned from Germany and Italy. All 18 positive cases were traced to him.
The death of the 70-year-old, only the fourth linked to coronavirus in India, had taken officials by surprise. They also stared at two potential nightmares when they started contact-tracing. Nawanshahr, part of Punjab’s NRI belt along with three other districts, had more than 1,600 visitors from abroad in March. Plus, the granthi, a popular figure in the region, had visited the Hola Mohalla at Anandpur Sahib, attended by two lakh pilgrims.
Eventually, the case count remained limited to 19. Their ages vary from a two-year-old grandson of the deceased to a 78- year-old priest. Dr Harwinder Singh, the Senior Medical Officer of Nawanshahr Civil Hospital, where all are admitted, said the patients were doing well.
As part of precautionary measures, more than 30,000 remain in home quarantine, while 26 teams keep a watch on the NRIs.
The deceased, who suffered from hypertension, returned from abroad on March 7 to village Pathlawa and took ill soon after. He died of a heart attack on March 18, and the test results showing him coronavirus positive came a day later. Over the next couple of days, the count of positive cases in the area rapidly rose to 18 including 14 family members of the deceased.
Among the nearly 500 people who were found to have direct or indirect contact with the Pathlawa granthi were at least 75 students who had travelled in a bus for their Class 12 board exams with his granddaughter. The 70-year-old had also visited hospitals in Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur, as he continued to feel ill, where relatives had come to visit him. Between March 9 and 11, the granthi with 34 others had gone to the Hola Mohalla.
But the turnaround after initial surge in cases took meticulous effort. With eight 24×7 helplines, so far around 6,600 kits of dry rations have been distributed to daily wagers in the village, and 26,000 more kits to BPL families. The Nawanshahr police have also started distributing sanitary napkins. Auxiliary nurse midwives, ASHA workers, and interns of a private nursing college have been going village to village examining people for health complaints.
Amarpreet Singh, 47, a Pathlawa resident and a commission agent at a grain market, is part of a team of volunteers ensuring doorstep delivery of essentials to around 400 households in Pathlawa amidst the lockdown. He has moved into a room secluded from the rest of the family, and washes own clothes.
Says Abhishek Wara, a Pathlawa resident, “A WhatsApp group of all 125 villages under the Banga subdivision has been formed by the DSP and SDM, and we are in touch with each other for supplies. The medicines not available are being procured by the administration.”
Nawanshahr Deputy Commissioner Vinay Bublani said of the 1,682 NRIs who came last month from Italy, Spain, the US, the UK and Australia, 1,500 had been located and put in home quarantine. “Around 759 anganwadi workers check up on them daily over phone. Twenty-five Rapid Response Teams have been formed to deal with any emergency.”
While there was some anger against them initially, the villagers have now taken charge of the NRIs themselves, calling them up often to find out if they need anything.
Back in Nawanshahr, the patients’ progress towards recovery isn’t the only good news. The Civil Hospital that had no ventilators earlier acquired two last week. Besides, all the posts of doctors and nurses in the four government hospitals of the district (nearly half were empty) are now filled.
On Saturday, the toddler, grandson of the granthi who was hospitalised with his parents, turned 2. The hospital team gifted him candies and a baby dress.
Nawanshahr SSP Alka Meena and DSP Deepika Singh on Sunday presented a cake and a soft-toy through the isolation ward staff to the toddler and his parents as a birthday gift. While the parents refused to accept the cake due to the recent death in the family, the hospital staff cut the cake and celebrated the toddler’s recovery.
Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: What can cause a COVID-19 patient to relapse after recovery? | COVID-19 lockdown has cleaned up the air, but this may not be good news. Here’s why | Can alternative medicine work against the coronavirus? | A five-minute test for COVID-19 has been readied, India may get it too | How India is building up defence during lockdown | Why only a fraction of those with coronavirus suffer acutely | How do healthcare workers protect themselves from getting infected? | What does it take to set up isolation wards?
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