A few people were rounded up by the cops for violating the curfew in Ludhiana on Thursday. (Express photo/Gurmeet Singh)
With seven new cases on Tuesday taking the total number of coronavirus patients in the district to 26, Mohali became the No. 1 COVID-19 hotspot of Punjab, overtaking the NRI hub of Nawanshehar, which reported the first corona patient in the state and had 18 patients at one point.
All seven cases, reported on Tuesday, are from Jawaharhpur village in Derabassi sub-division, and the affected people – the list includes the sarpanch and her family – were contacts of the villager, who tested positive last Saturday. The village now has total of 11 positive cases. Situated on the Chandigarh-Ambala national highway, a mere 4 km away from the town of Derabassi, the village has a large population of vegetable growers and small-time truckers, who ferry their produce to the local markets in the area, including that of the Sector 26 anaj mandi in Chandigarh – one of the biggest vegetable and grain markets in the region. It is also a transit point for truckers. Mohali Civil Surgeon Dr Manjeet Singh said while four fresh cases are family members of a local factory owner who was the first one from the village to test positive last Saturday. The other three include the village sarpanch, her husband (who is a Block Samiti member and head of the local canter union), and their daughter. The sarpanch’s husband, who also tested positive Tuesday, was seen distributing langar, ration and masks to health teams few days ago.
When asked about the possible source of the infection since the first patient from the village does not have a travel history, Dr Manjeet Singh said their team has found that he had come in contact with some people in the village who had attended the Markaz at Nizamuddin, Delhi. “At this point we are not sure, our epidemiologists are carrying out investigations, 30 contacts of the corona patients have been isolated,” Dr Manjeet Singh added. Four samples of people in Shakti Nagar, Derabassi, who were close associates of the sarpanch, have also been sent to the PGI in Chandigarh for further evaluation.
So far, Mohali district has reported one death, and the authorities claim to have undertaken the most intensive testing in the state here, collecting the samples of 607 people from affected areas last week. Reports of 192 samples are pending. After the discovery of the new cases, the district health teams collected the samples of 118 villagers and examined 2,460 people during the door-to-door survey in the village. The administration also sealed two villages of Devi Nagar and Mukandpur located within a 3-km radius of Jawaharhpur village. Deputy Commissioner (DC) Girish Dayalan, who visited the village, said the people who were in touch with the positive cases have been isolated and the village disinfected.
A village of transporters & vegetable growers
Most of the residents of Jawaharhpur village are agriculturists while a handful are into the transport business. “The village has a population of 3,000, with 1,900 registered voters. This is a very bad news for us though our sympathies are with the patients and their families. We need to take utmost precautions,” said Avtar Singh, a former sarpanch. When asked about the trucks and canters parked outside the village, Avtar Singh said since the village is located on the Chandigarh-Ambala National Highway, it was a halting point for truckers. Ever since Saturday, when the first case came to light, the village has sealed its entrance with the help of the police and health authorities. The last three days have transformed the village. “Most people are now staying inside and taking all precautionary measures. We used to make announcements regarding the safeguards against corona from the local gurdwara, but we never thought the village will see such an explosion of cases,” said a village elder who refused to be named. The police have taken 30-odd close contacts of the infected people to a building belonging to a religious sect in Devigarh village, where they are being kept in isolation.