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Aggressive contact tracing, enhanced testing, GPS tracking: How Srinagar is fighting to keep COVID-19 at bay

The district has, so far, recorded 53 positive coronavirus cases against a population of over 17 lakh, since the first case was reported on March 18.

Written by Naveed Iqbal | Srinagar |
Updated: April 15, 2020 10:06:48 pm
jammu kashmir coronavirus, coronavirus lockdown, india lockdown, jammu kashmir lockdown A deserted Srinagar street amid the nationwide coronavirus-induced lockdown. (Express Photo: Shuaib Masoodi)

On Monday, Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar was included in a list of 16 districts to share best practices in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, with representatives of 700 districts of the country.

The key factors that distinguish Srinagar in dealing with the pandemic, include early response, aggressive contact tracing and use of information technology alongside enhanced testing and surveillance.

Nearly 15,000 policemen and 1000 surveillance teams scan the city every day to enforce stringent lockdown.

The district has, so far, recorded 53 positive coronavirus cases against a population of over 17 lakh, since the first case was reported on March 18. Nineteen others from Delhi and Kerala are also quarantined by the administration on their arrival in the district on March 26 after the administration’s ‘control room intelligence team’ tracked them.

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In a meeting with cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba on Wednesday, Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary highlighted the COVID-19 mitigation efforts including setting up a response team as early as February when medical students from China were scheduled to return to Srinagar.

coronavirus india, coronavirus UP, coronavirus Jammu, coronavirus italy tourists in india, coronavirus death toll india J&K authorities set up an isolation ward for suspected coronavirus cases in Srinagar. (Express photo by Shuaib Masoodi

Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital began a graded response starting first week of March with 100 per cent screening of all incoming travellers and putting all of those returning from outside the country under quarantine. With the COVID-19 outbreak happening at a time when a large number of pilgrims were returning from the Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, the administration’s efforts also focussed on foreign tourists.

A 24-hour Control Room began operations in the first week of March, which the administration says has played a pivotal role in tracing and containment efforts. There are four different apps that the administration is using for purposes quarantine management, COVID symptom tracking, geo-fencing tracking and home-to-home surveillance tracking.

“Using crowdsourcing of information, mobile based applications, GPS tracking, Bank account transaction details and other vigilance measures, the control room officials traced 889 such persons who had not revealed their travel history. It also included more than 220 people who self-reported on the app – Talaash,” Choudhary told The Indian Express.

Apart from this, official sources said, Srinagar identified about 800 individuals, who were traced and quarantined in connection with the Tablighi Jamaat event in the national capital.

Coronavirus pandemic. As a precautionary measure employees of Muncipal coporation (SMC) are fumigating every vehicle in sSrinagar. (Express photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

The challenge of providing essential services with the minimum footprint possible, is being met through an IVRS-based call centre that has replaced nearly a dozen dedicated helplines started initially to reach out to people in need of food, old age help, patient care, and grocery. Additionally, for patients undergoing treatments for diabetes and cancer, those who require dialysis and pregnant women, helplines have been set up to provide urgent care.

“The call centre responds to 1500-2000 calls every day linking various nodal offices to issues raised for resolution at local level,” Choudhary said.

Meanwhile, the district has been divided into 25 administrative zones, each headed by a senior officer with members drawn from all departments for response to local issues in the city’s ‘red zones’. There are 15 red zones in Srinagar, which are provided with 45 entry/exit points, whereas the rest is covered by a dedicated control room.

The other districts in the list include, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Pune, Indore, Thane, Bhopal, Kurnool, Meerut, Khurda, Trichy, Siwan, Purba-Midnapore, Amritsar, Kannur and Golaghat.

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First published on: 15-04-2020 at 07:45:47 pm
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