Updated: May 21, 2021 4:59:29 am
“People tell each other not to get tested. That they will take you away if you test positive. That you will not get the bodies of your loved ones back if they are admitted in a hospital.”
In Haryana’s predominantly rural district of Nuh—ranked India’s most backward as per a 2018 NITI Aayog survey—rumours surrounding testing and hospitalisation for Covid-19 have gripped village after village, exacerbating the issues of hesitancy and disregard for norms.
The district, roughly 45 km from Gurugram, has seen a drop in Covid cases over the last twelve days, with the positivity rate hurtling down from 30 per cent on May 7 to less than seven per cent on Thursday, according to official records. The average number of daily tests, too, has doubled.
But the heads of several villages in the district said that the administration, despite launching several measures, needs to do more.
Among the affected villages is Ghasera. “People are doing self-medication even when they have symptoms like cough, fever or breathlessness. If it gets really bad, some of them go to the hospital. But a lot of cases are going undetected, and deaths as well,” said its sarpanch, Ashraf, as he described the various rumours and fears spreading among the people.
The village has seen several people with symptoms, said Ashraf. Some of them succumb but are not added to Health Department records because they never got themselves tested.
“On May 13, we had five people who died in our village of Covid-like symptoms, but they had not got themselves tested. No teams are coming for testing here, and people are unwilling to go themselves. If a team is sent by the administration to the village itself, the panchayat, we can all work together to motivate people to get themselves tested. We have done this before also, during other government schemes, we motivated people to get other vaccines, make toilets in their homes. We have been successful before and are hopeful we can do it again. But testing camps have to be set up first,” he said.
In Ujina village, which is among those recording a high number of cases as per officials, a lack of norm imposition and adherence adds to the hesitancy problem.
“People who are getting fever or other symptoms are going to the PHC in our vicinity to get themselves tested, but the problem is not everyone is following the norms, even after testing positive. Earlier, teams of the health department would come and paste stickers outside houses of people who tested positive. Now, this is not happening. As a result, people who are testing positive are still meeting others without masks or roaming around. We find out later that they have Covid-19,” said Rajbir Singh, a member of the village panchayat.
“Testing is also a problem. We have had some 20-30 deaths of people with Covid-like symptoms in our village in the last month. In one family, a man and his daughter-in-law both died, they had not got themselves tested but they had Covid symptoms, plus the way they died, if this was not Covid what was it?” he asked.
Singh is hopeful that the situation in his village will improve in the coming days. He said the administration is in talks with the panchayat and residents to set up an isolation centre there.
“This will help a lot, especially for people flouting rules. If they are isolated in these places, they will be forced to follow norms and the spread can be reduced,” he said.
Apart from Ujina, an isolation centre is also being planned in Maroda village, where sarpanch Gopi says teams of the administration and health department have also started a door-to-door survey to identify Covid-positive persons.
“In our village, there has been a bit of a drop in cases. We have 10-15 active cases right now. People are getting tested if they have symptoms and now teams are also going door-to-door to test those who have symptoms. An isolation centre is also being made in our village. The administration is trying to set it up in one of the community buildings, but it is in the planning stage right now,” said Gopi.
A top district official said the administration is planning such isolation centres in several parts of Nuh, as per directions from Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
“As per the Chief Minister’s directions, 50 facilities are being developed in villages. We are targeting the villages that have a high number of cases, like Ujina and Indri. They will be targeted and facilities will be set up there. We are working on this and centres will be established in the next one or two days,” said Deputy Commissioner Dhirendra Khadgata.
Officials said work is also being done to step up testing and screening in villages and isolate those who are infected. For this, 85 “field teams” and as many “headquarter teams” have been set up in the district. The field teams will go door-to-door screening every person. Those found having symptoms will be referred to the headquarter team, which will then conduct a health check-up.
While the field team will comprise an ASHA, an anganwadi worker, a panch, a sarpanch, and a Block Level Officer, the headquarter team will be made up of a multipurpose health worker (MPHW), an NHM, and a data entry operator.
“Nuh has its maximum population in rural areas, it is traditionally a rural area with only two urban pockets, Nuh and Tauru. And those are very small compared to other urban centres,” said the Deputy Commissioner.
“We have 85 field teams that will cover villages in the district one by one and undertake screening. We are also doing antigen testing in containment zones and have doubled our RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests the last one week,” he said.
The district health bulletin data indicates an improvement in the situation in the last 12 days. Nuh had 742 active Covid cases on May 7. It now has 248 active cases. The positivity rate during this period has dropped from 30.16 per cent to 6.76 per cent while the recovery rate has increased from 77.46 per cent to 92.78 per cent.
According to the bulletin, while around 500 tests were being done daily at the beginning of May, this number has now been increased to over 1,000.
The fatality rate, however, has increased from 1.3 per cent to 1.74 per cent, something officials attribute to a tendency of fatalities to lag “around two weeks” behind cases.
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