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Extend lockdown, need more PPEs: Officers on ground

The 'National Preparedness Survey on COVID-19' says in its prelude to one of the questions that the government’s aim was to “evade further community transmission” and chalk out a strategy in case community transmission takes place.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi |
Updated: April 3, 2020 8:13:49 am
coronavirus india lockdown, coronavirus, covid-19, ppe, coronavirus doctor protection gear, personal protection equipments, ppe india, ppe shortage, Indian express The numbers threw up a grim picture for the Centre. (File Photo/Representational)

There is a massive shortage of key personal protective equipment (PPEs) at the district and village levels, and the 21-day lockdown period should be extended to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.

These are the two key takeaways from a government survey of 410 district collectors and district magistrates leading the country’s efforts in dealing with what the government in the survey described as the “greatest health crisis India faced since Independence”.

While 410 officers registered online for the survey, not all of them answered all 23 questions. So the survey has taken into account the 266 completely filled forms.

The ‘National Preparedness Survey on COVID-19’ says in its prelude to one of the questions that the government’s aim was to “evade further community transmission” and chalk out a strategy in case community transmission takes place.

The numbers threw up a grim picture for the Centre.

As many as 47 per cent of the officers “felt that inadequate availability of Personal Protection Equipment (masks, gloves etc.) in District/ Sub-District Hospitals is an area of concern,” the survey said.

Around 28 per cent said there were not enough isolation beds, and 60 per cent said district hospitals did not have adequate ICU beds. Around 71 per cent said there were not enough ventilators in the battle against COVID-19. As much as 34 per cent respondents felt the local hospitals were “not equipped” to face the outbreak.

The survey, conducted by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, under the Ministry of Personnel, included IAS officers from batches 2014-18 who did stints in Union ministries as Assistant Secretaries before being posted in their respective cadres.

In an endorsement of the Centre’s strategy, an overwhelming 96 per cent respondents noted that the lockdown is “an effective way” to contain the outbreak, even as 31 per cent felt that people in the districts and villagers are “alarmed and panicking”.

Asked what is the one thing the government should do, the replies were compiled into 21 responses. Chief among them was that the lockdown period should be extended “till Covid-19 is not controlled”.

“Furthermore,” the survey stated, “any instances of non-adherence to curfew/ lockdown should be dealt with harshly particularly where gathering of more than 50 people.” In a similar vein, another response said the 21-day lockdown should be cautiously reviewed, “as it may as it may lead to wider spread of the virus.”

Among key actions recommended by the respondents was the need to test more people to find more positive cases. “The survey highlighted the need for quick redressal of under-reported cases…on account of under-testing people due to various challenges like paucity of testing kits, no data on travel history, sudden migration of wage workers across states; as this may actually end up in further transmission,” said one key action point.

The survey also threw up unique problems faced by district administrations in the fight against the outbreak.

Information collection regarding foreign travel history of people in the district and states was emphasised, as most people hid their travel history, thereby resulting in delay of contact-tracing and prevention of human-to-human transmission, said one of the findings.

“Post-lockdown, thousands of migrants moved from metros to rural hinterlands. They were unwilling for health check-ups, taking samples and testing on route,” the survey found.

Among the “one thing the government should do”, the survey reports: “Continue the lockdown for an extended period if necessary. The 21-day lockdown period is to be used to identify more positive cases and quarantine all those who were in contact with them.”

Risk points in some states

Maharashtra: Availability of medical supplies such as PPEs, masks, sanitisers, ventilators, etc; lack of trained staff

Madhya Pradesh: Poor infrastructure, low availability of PPEs, ventilators

Andhra Pradesh: Identification, isolation of foreign returnees

Bihar: Lack of PPEs and medical facilities. Some districts report lack of basic medical accessories such as masks, sanitisers

Gujarat: High migrant inflow, risky slum areas and lack of PPEs for hospital staff; internal migration

Delhi: Inadequate testing of suspected cases; need for better hospital equipment

Chhattisgarh: Lack of medical facilities, staff; shortage of PPEs

Assam: People not following lockdown orders properly; non-availability of PPEs, migration within state and those coming from states like Mizoram

Haryana: Labor movement, migration within; shortage of PPEs, ventilators

J&K: Inadequate PPEs; no supply of drugs for approved treatment

Jharkhand: Lack of an anesthetic in Dumka means ventilators can’t be operated

Himachal Pradesh: Few testing kits available; people movement a challenge

Arunachal Pradesh: Lack of proper health facilities, shortage of sample collection kits, testing facilities, PPEs and non-availability of ICUs, ventilators, etc

Nagaland: No testing centre in state, shortage of ambulances, oxygen cylinders, etc

Lakshadweep: Transportation and logistics a challenge due to geographical spread of islands. Not all islands have adequate facilities

Daman & Diu: Inadequate health infrastructure and testing facilities

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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