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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Kerala’s panchayat-level Covid teams ensure smooth data collection, coordination

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the local self-government has been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 in Kerala.

Written by Aneesa PA | Thrissur |
Updated: June 1, 2021 7:09:43 pm
During the insidious second wave, local bodies set up Covid control teams.

Arundathi Aparna, 40, an English teacher at a government-aided senior secondary school at Udayamperoor in Ernakulam, is the newest member of the Covid centre in Ayroor panchayat, her hometown in Pathanamthitta district.

Aparna joined the Covid centre following the government’s order to deploy teachers in infection prevention activities. “I collate data of what was spent at the community kitchen, the number of positive cases, deaths etc in the ward from ASHA workers and Anganwadi teachers,” she said.

“It is manageable,” said Aparna, who also takes her online classes for plus-one batch before and after her Covid duty.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the local self-government has been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 in Kerala. During the insidious second wave, local bodies set up Covid control teams. Working under a nodal officer, these teams at each panchayat across the state coordinate with the Rapid Response Team (RRT) and collate data at the grassroots level. Most of them also have 24 hours help desk service accessible to the public.

Twenty-three-year-old Akhil V S, a Covid volunteer staying at the Domiciliary Care Centre (DCC) at Keezhariyur panchayat in Kozhikode district says that the Covid war room at the panchayat and the Primary Health Centre coordinate regularly with them through phone and WhatsApp so there is no confusion for them.

Akhil, one of the two Covid volunteers staying at the centre, said he had learned a lot since the beginning of his stay, from working on a fumigation machine to fixing electrical circuits. A Malayalam song from the 2000s could be heard in the background, as he spoke on the phone from the DCC, which he said was useful in providing positive energy to patients and volunteers. DCCs treat asymptomatic Covid patients who don’t have a quarantine facility at home.

A recent graduate from the Koyilandy regional campus of the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, Akhil says he contributes the Rs 750 the Panchayat pays him per day during his stay at the DCC to the Covid fund they created.

“We talk to ward members, ASHA workers, and officials in the Covid centre every day and give the updates. Sometimes they come here and engage in chit chat. It is motivating in these tough times,” said Akhil who has been a Covid volunteer ever since the first few cases hit Kerala.

The Covid control room at Keezhariyur has at least eight people in the daytime and two to three people in the night, said Nirmala K K, Panchayat President. Thanks to the collective work, TPR (Test Positivity Rate) was reduced from 30 per cent to 8 per cent in two weeks in the Panchayat, she said.

According to her, the immense support from the public has helped the administration from a financial burden especially when all the services-a mobile medical unit, vehicles including an ambulance for emergency and medical travel, food from the community kitchen, and medical kit (a package of prescribed medicines for covid patients)-are provided free to the public.

According to her, the Panchayat has overwhelming support from the public as many farmers contribute free vegetables to the community kitchen, and schools and welfare clubs contribute medical equipment.

“We conducted an oximeter challenge when we had a shortage two weeks ago, which was a huge success,” she said.

“Setting up of the war room helped in easing the burden of panchayat, as they have regular administrative works to do,” said Raveendran P K, Nodal officer of the covid war room, at Pazhayannur Panchayat in Thrissur district.

Raveendran, who was appointed as the nodal officer on May 7, at the panchayat, says the Covid management also became easier and more efficient.

“The data is much more accurate than before, with minimum error, since we coordinate with each RRT [Rapid Response Team] member separately,” he said. According to him, the team of three members at the Panchayat office spent sufficient time analysing ward level data each day before the meeting.

In the meeting (attended by panchayat core committee ward members, teachers, and health inspector in charge of each ward apart from Panchayat officials), we analyse data and discuss everything from each ward’s performance to shortcomings and decide whether we should ease the curbs or triple lockdown should be implemented in any ward, he said.

According to him, an increase in positive cases among RRT members is a concern. “But we have standby as many teachers and volunteers are yet to be assigned duties,” he said.

Dividing the ward into clusters is the next step, he said. Clusters will be small units within a ward of 60 houses with an RRT team. This will reduce the burden of RRT volunteers and will increase the efficiency of the system, he said.

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