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Amid COVID-19 entering the local transmission stage in rural parts of Pune, the Pune Zilla Parishad will launch a more determined day-long containment plan for 69 villages that have reported the majority of infections.
According to a report by The Indian Express, Ayush Prasad, CEO of Pune ZP, said the plan, which would work in three layers, will include more determined surveillance, testing, and treatment.
With 2,07,435 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Pune is the worst-affected district in India. On Monday, Pune became the first district in the country to cross two lakh cases. Of this, while 2,07,435 have recovered, 4,538 people have succumbed to the virus.
While most of the cases are in the urban areas of the district, as many as 24,677 cases and 760 deaths have been reported from rural areas as of September 5. Daily, around 700-750 are testing positive for the virus in these areas.
A recent zero survey in the district had revealed that in some of the areas surveyed, while over 50 per cent to 60 per cent of the population had already been infected, most of these had gone undetected.
Dr Subhash Salunke, chairman of the state technical committee on the prevention of communicable diseases said that contact tracing in a city like Pune, which is closely linked to rural areas, is difficult.
"There are people making two to three trips to the city every day from nearby rural areas. Contact tracing becomes slightly difficult exercise in such a setting, especially when these areas are under the domain of multiple civic authorities," he said.
The first day-long containment plan was carried out at Narayangaon in Junnar taluka of the district on Tuesday, September 8, during which 14,890 people were screened, said Dr Varsha Gunjal, a medical officer in charge.
While carrying out the survey, market places were also sealed for a specific time period and 100 per cent survey was carried out.
"Asha workers, Anganwadi workers and teachers formed the ground force. 100 such teams carried out the survey using a pulse oximeter and thermal gun," said Gunjal.
Seventy suspected cases were reported on the first day of the survey and 53 people were tested using rapid antigen kits. Of this, 13 tested positive and all were sent to COVID care centres for further treatment as they were all asymptomatic.
"85 per cent cases are from 69 villages spread over six talukas of the district. Our strategy will be focused in these areas and the aim will be to control the spread of the infection there," Prasad said.
He added that the strategy is on the lines of the election strategy followed by the district authorities.
The containment is carried out in three levels where teachers will visit houses for a survey in identified villages in the first level of containment. If any person is suspected to have COVID-19, they will be sent to screening centres, where doctors will conduct screening through antigen test kits.
While the asymptomatic patients who test positive will be sent for home quarantine, those who are symptomatic and test negative would be further sent for swab testing. Furthermore, depending upon the severity of the patients' symptoms, they will be admitted to COVID care centres or dedicated COVID hospitals.
Furthermore, the local authorities are also keeping a tab on pharmacies in a bid to track the sale of fever medicines, which will help the authorities in identifying cases that may otherwise go undetected, Prasad said.
In a bid to start early treatment and bring down mortality due to COVID-19, a digital platform in the Zilla Parishad has been reworked. With two zoom calls every day, the local doctors can receive expert advice from specialists in the district task force.
Dr Amol Kolhe, Shirur Lok Sabha MP, told The Indian Express that there were at least 25-30 per cent COVID-19 patients in Pune urban areas are from rural parts who lose their time as they try to get treatment from city-specific hospitals. As a result, to manage patients in mainly rural areas, a doctor advisory digital system has been launched.
Ayush Prasad said that the state digital platform has been extensively used for teleconsultations for a number of programmes. In addition, video links are shared with rural hospitals, sub-district hospitals, women's hospitals and other medical facilities.
However, Prasad added, there are issues such as video calls don't get recorded and doctors in rural areas have a hard time sharing documents or patients' reports.
Meanwhile, Sudhir Mehta, president-elect of the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce and Industries, who has been heading the volunteer group Pune Platform for Covid Response for the last six months, said that they are focusing on working with several hospitals treating Covid patients and bringing down the fatality rate in Pune.
"We have worked on seven to eight initiatives, including the availability of ventilators and PPE kits, among others. Several webinars have been held with the state task force, with Pune doctors discussing clinical practices," Mehta said.
"The daily digital platform will now ensure availability of expert doctors so medicos in rural areas can get a second opinion, as they may not have handled the complexity of cases seen in urban areas," he added.
Meanwhile, as Pune is struggling with the availability of trained medical personnel, nurses and health assistants, Saurabh Rao, Pune Divisional Commissioner, said that he is hopeful for the government approval to their proposal to involve PG medical students in COVID-19 duty, after their exams.
"We have made a request to the government that PG students, as soon as they are free from their exams on September 15, should be allowed to be roped in Covid management," Rao said.
"They will be compensated and their duty during this period can be deducted from their serving bond period. In Pune, there are more than 600 PG students, and it will be a big help if the government takes this decision," he added.
Stating that the "situation is very tight", Rao added that they are also focusing on adjoining districts of the Pune division, Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur.
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