A single unit of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) in Hingoli district has hit the headlines for reporting as many as 83 COVID-19 cases. A closer look reveals that a large number of personnel, whose results were negative in the first round of tests conducted immediately upon arrival, later tested positive in the second round, as many of them remained asymptomatic.
As on Wednesday, the number of COVID-19 cases in SRPF is 160. Other than Hingoli, cases among SRPF personnel have been reported from Mumbai, Malegaon, Pune, Thane, Jalna and some other locations.
To prevent such spread of infection, officials have decided that during future deployments, CRPF companies will be divided into smaller groups.
The 83 personnel of Group 12 of the SRPF are from two companies, with a total of 194 men, who had recently returned from their deployments in Malegaon and Mumbai — two areas badly hit by COVID-19. The situation could have been catastrophic, said officials, had they not taken the decision to immediately isolate and test the 194 men once they came back to Hingoli.
The two companies of SRPF’s Group 12 were deployed in Malegaon and Mumbai from late February. On April 19 and 20, the companies returned to their unit headquarters in Hingoli.
Manchak Ippar, commandant of SRPF Group 12, said, “Prior to their arrival, we had made preparations to completely isolate the two companies as a precautionary measure. After their arrival, while none of them showed any symptoms, we took the decision to get them tested in consultation with the district collector and the civil surgeon. Their test results came back on April 21. Five personnel from one company and one from the second one tested positive, while others tested negative. Those who tested positive were further isolated and the remaining personnel were kept under observation.”
In the following days, some of the personnel who had tested negative started showing symptoms and were immediately tested on April 24 and 27. Their results were positive. On April 28 and May 1, all the men the first and second companies were tested again and among them, 26 and 36 personnel respectively tested positive.
“The total number of positive cases in our Group SRPF is now 83 and there is no denying that it is worrying. However, it’s assuring to note that we have reasons to believe that all the infections source back to places of deployment and nowhere else. Almost all of them are asymptomatic and few of those who have pre -diagnosed medical conditions have been shifted to Aurangabad for advanced care. All of them are out of danger,” said Ippar.
He added, “We are in the process of making changes in the way we deploy our companies. In the coming days, while full companies will be deployed at one location, they will be transported, accommodated and placed on duty in smaller units … to make sure the company strength remains segregated.”
Four villages under lockdown after SRPF jawan’s visit
One more case of an SRPF jawan contracting COVID-19 has come to light. Officials said the SRPF jawan, attached to the group located in adjacent district Jalna, travelled along with the Hingoli team from Malegaon because he was to get married. He got down at Jalna en route and then travelled to Hingoli, which is his native district, on his bike. He visited multiple places in Hingoli.
Around the same time, personnel in the Hingoli group started testing positive. The jawan was also tested and found to be positive. Subsequently, officials had to put the four villages he visited under lockdown and quarantine 90 of their residents. Two of those 90 have tested positive.
The jawan’s wedding has been postponed, said officials.