Despite being surrounded by districts with high number of COVID-19 cases, Wardha continues to remain free from the virus, thanks to several measures undertaken by the district administration over the past three months.
Wardha is the only ‘green zone’ district in Vidarbha region besides Gadchiroli, while Washim and Gondia have seen a sole patient each being discharged. Chandrapur had its first positive case on Saturday.
Among the initiatives taken by the Wardha district administration include strict vigil at the four goods unloading points along the entry points of the district, and deployment of youth squads in 65 villages.
“We are surrounded by three highly corona-affected districts of Nagpur, Yavatmal and Amravati. So, we needed to be extra cautious. We started off our campaign as early as in February when we quarantined 13 girls from Beijing, who had joined the Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya. At that time, there was no talk of lockdown in the country,” Wardha Collector Vivek Bhimanwar told The Indian Express.
“In the middle of March, when the Maharashtra government started discussing various measures to contain the possible outbreak, we prepared a list of about 54 major crowding vegetable markets in the district and shifted them to large open places to prevent crowding,” the collector said, adding, “We stopped the entry of vegetables from outside of the district.”
He said the administration has been undertaking regular health checkups of all vegetables vendors.
The next major step was to seal the 16 major roads and about 98 obscure ways to enter into the district. “We knew it would be impossible to deploy police at all the points. So, we roped in staff from other departments to form vigilance squads along with 65 squads of local youths led by sarpanchs of villages near the entry points of the district,” Bhimanwar said.
The collector, however, considers setting up of four goods unloading points at the district borders as the most effective measure. “We allowed transport vehicles carrying essential goods only by four routes and created unloading points at the entry points of district. Considering drivers and cleaners of such vehicles could be potential corona carriers, we immediately sanitise them and shift them to a separate facility. They are not allowed to mix with locals. They are not allowed to enter the city under any circumstances. The vehicles are also disinfected and goods are unloaded by local labourers and carried to markets in separate vehicles,” the collector said.
He added, “Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee yards, where large number of vehicles arrive regularly, have the option of creating unloading facilities on their premises, as per the prescribed standard operating procedure (SOP).”
According to the SOP, workers at the unloading points are asked to strictly adhere to sanitation measures, including use of masks, gloves, sanitisers, hand-wash, etc.
“Local traders of onion, potato, garlic, ginger and fruits have to register online in advance and ask the vehicles to deliver at unloading point at least three days a week,” the SOP states.
Besides, all other stipulations directed by central and state governments have also been put in place, like detecting travelers from outside the district through ASHA workers and putting them in home quarantine with stamps on hands and stickers on homes followed by daily follow-up, immediately shifting those with illnesses to hospital for testing, etc.
“We have put 114 foreign travellers and 19,600 outside travelers under home quarantine. A total of 300 samples were sent for testing, of which, 291 have reported negative and nine reports are awaited,” Bhimanwar said.