7,000 Teams, Ruthless Strategy: Can Bhilwara’s Covid-19 Plan Prove to be a Game-changer for India?

News18.com

Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district was among the handful of districts in the country where the coronavirus pandemic threatened to spiral out of control, with two dozen positive cases recorded in the first few days.

However, an effective screening and containment strategy combined with a total lockdown of the district ensured that Bhilwara became the only district, with such a high number of cases, to show a decline in number of newly infected patients.

So much so that over the last five days only one new Covid-19 positive case was detected. The person leading the battle against pandemic is Rohit Kumar Singh, Additional Chief Secretary (Medical & Health), speaks to News18 about what the state health minister, Raghu Sharma, proudly referred to as the ‘Bhilwara Model’.

What was the immediate response of the state once you detected a large number of Covid-19 positive cases in the district?

Our response was to ensure ruthless containment. Not just in letter but in spirit as well. We had to ensure that our borders were sealed and that there was 100 per cent compliance with the curfew. The character of Bhilwara’s Covid-19 problem was different than other places.

Here, one doctor who was treating patients at his hospital and was a visiting consultant at two other hospitals was the carrier of the virus. So we understood that his reach was perhaps greater than the reach of other Covid-19 patients. People had come to see him from the city as well as from villages.

We had to ensure that after sealing the borders of the district, we created containment areas, between one and three kilometres. Then, we quickly traced his contacts and secondary contacts. We also had to create buffer zones to contain the spread of the virus.

Without losing any time, we constituted 7,000 teams that surveyed 20 lakh locals within a short span. We carried out the screening of people for ILI (Influenza-Like Infection). Our response was graded, in consonance with the magnitude of the problem. Screening and then testing them. The central government also helped us in this regard.

How successfully do you think the ‘Bhilwara Model’ can be applied to other similarly affected districts?

Every city has its own character, its different model. For instance, we cannot apply this exact model in Ramgunj which is a walled city with a very high density of population. This method will have to be adapted and changed for a city like Ramgunj. But we applied a similar model to the Tonk district. We saw a similar spike in coronavirus cases there, but after enforcing similar precautionary measures, we’re seeing the number of cases come down and hopefully it will be another story like Bhilwara.

Going forward, what do you think was you biggest learning from how the strategy worked in Bhilwara?

If there’s one thing we have learnt from this episode it is that one has to equip and empower the local administration. You cannot be bossing over them. That’s my learning. Those people on the ground, they know the situation very well, so it makes sense to let them handle most of the responsibility while ensuring that they have enough resources to do their jobs.

How grave is the Covid-19 situation in Rajasthan due to the spread of infection from Nizamuddin?

I think we should not single people out like this. They are part of the society. They are my citizens. If there are people who suffered because of it, I will ensure that they get the best treatment. But singling people out, naming them, excluding them like this, I don’t think it is the right way. I’ll ensure that everyone in my state gets the best treatment.