Dr Randeep Guleria, 61, is director of AIIMS and one of the experts leading the country’s novel coronavirus disease response. For the past four months, as head of the clinical research group of the national Covid-19 task force, he has been travelling across the country and interacting with patients and doctors to map the spread of the virus and suggest measures to frame the country’s treatment policies.
What precautions do you take to stay Covid-free?
When we talk of Covid-19, we have to look at the non-pharmacological steps. Wearing my mask properly, especially at the hospital, washing my hands, using a sanitiser, and maintaining physical distance while meeting people are some of the things I do regularly. While examining patients, I also wear a face shield.
Have you got yourself tested for Covid-19?
In the early days of the pandemic, I had examined a patient who later turned out to be Covid-19 positive. So I had to get myself tested. Fortunately, the result was negative. Since then, I haven’t got myself tested.
What was your routine like in self-isolation?
Before I got myself tested, for about five-seven days, I stayed at home in a separate room. I did not eat with my family. After my results came negative, I returned to work.
What kind of gloves and mask do you use?
At the hospital, I use an N95 mask without an expiratory port. When I am in a non-Covid zone, I use a disposable mask. Four masks are issued to all healthcare workers, to be used on a rotational basis over 20 days. On Day 1, we wear the first mask and then wear it again on Day 5. While visiting a Covid zone, I wear complete PPE gear and a disposable mask.
I wear my mask every time I step out of the house and do not take it off throughout the day. Only when I am alone in my office and having tea or water, I take my mask off. In meetings too, I keep my mask on. I don’t use gloves very often. I prefer to wash my hands regularly.
While interacting with people at work, what precautions do you take?
It is difficult because at times you can’t avoid a crowd. The mask helps and I also carry a bottle of hand sanitiser in my pocket. I use it as frequently as possible when I am travelling and touching surfaces.
How long have you gone without seeing your family?
My wife, son and daughter-in-law are all doctors. Both my wife and son work in Covid hospitals. There have been times when all three of us have stayed in separate rooms for about seven-10 days. Any one of us could come in contact with a positive case and that is why these measures are important. We meet only after a negative test or when none of us shows any symptoms for at least a week.
You have been travelling a lot since March. Any specific precautions while you travel?
While travelling, I make sure that I am carrying carrying enough masks, bottles of hand sanitiser and, sometimes, even a pair of gloves.
In the early days, there were no commercial flights and the precautions that we had to take were very different. But now, in commercial flights, I am extra careful. I try to maintain as much distance as possible from other passengers and follow all the other guidelines as well.
How much time do you spend in front of a screen?
My screen time has increased a lot. I have to stay updated on all the Covid-19 news. Earlier, I spent a lot of time in the morning reading the newspaper. I have not been able to do that now because the hospital’s workload has increased. So I read what I can on my iPad and also watch various news channels on it.
Apart from news articles, I read a lot of Covid-related research on my computer. From February to August, the situation has changed a lot and I need to know the latest in treatment strategies.
How do you keep your mind off the pandemic?
It’s difficult. When I was in quarantine, I read a few novels. I try and do a little bit of walking late in the evening and some yoga. But honestly, I haven’t had the time to do much since the pandemic arrived in India.
What is the first thing you want to do when the pandemic is past?
I would want to spend an evening or weekend with friends and family whom I have not seen or met in a long time. I would love to travel to a nice place and rest for four-five days. Just to sleep, relax and enjoy the scenery.
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