Bhilwara,the textile town of Rajasthan, had become one of the major hotspots of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country in March. Since then, an aggressive containment model created by the District Magistrate Rajendra Bhatt had been implemented throughout the district.
This ruthless containment model adopted in Bhilwara was hailed countrywide for its success in breaking the chain of virus transmission. Within 10 days, there were no new positive cases in Bhilwara. The district went from having 26 positive coronavirus cases to 0 in 10 days.
The Logical Indian reached out to the District Magistrate Rajendra Bhatt to enquire about his hugely lauded success.
"The first two three cases were of doctors who saw about 10,000 people while they were infected. It was a state of uncertainty and community spread was written on the wall. There was widespread fear about Bhilwara becoming another Italy, because we only had the record of about 7,000 people they saw in the hospital, while over 3,000 people were examined at their homes, of which there was no record," the IAS officer said.
According to WHO guidelines, one person can infect upto 406 persons in a month's time. On understanding the severity of the situation, the District Magistrate requested the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, to sanction the immediate orders needed to put the plan to effect.
These actions included isolation of the entire district as the first step, which meant sealing all the district borders, discontinuing the railways and the roadways. The IAS officer coordinated with the administration of neighbouring districts to ensure the isolation of Bhilwara district.
The second step was mapping the clusters, and ensuring the 3 km area around the hospital strictly becomes a 'No Movement Zone', with harsh actions against any violators. 3 teams of 300 people carried out door to door screening, and aggressive testing, especially in the 6 identified hotspots.
A team of nearly 6,000 people was deployed in the rural area of the district which constitutes 1,910 villages. The team was timely scheduled with assignments to aggressively trace, test, and quarantine suspected people and ensure distancing. They also spread awareness about the protective measures that were needed to be taken.
The neighbours of the quarantined people were designated as 'Corona Fighters' whose work was to ensure that the infected stay isolated, their daily requirements get fulfilled, and keep reporting the authorities with updates on them.
"About 15,000 beds were needed to be used as isolation beds. The officials acquired hotels, dharamshalas, hostels, and various other institutions within the district to be used as quarantine wards. The district hospital was made a fully dedicated COVID-19 hospital. We also acquired 4 other private hospitals so that patients suffering from other conditions could go seek treatment. All of this was implemented from the 19th, along with a strict curfew from 20th onwards," the DM told The Logical Indian.
The survey in the city hotspots began from 19th while in the rural areas, the measures picked up from 22nd. Till the 27th, a population of about 28 lakh had been surveyed door to door.
"The survey was conducted thrice in the city, and the 4th one is in process as we speak," said the Magistrate.
The Collector also thanked the media for cautioning about a plausible situation of the district turning into another Italy.
"Media repeatedly pointed out that Bhilwara, an epicenter of the country, could likely have it as worse as Italy. This instilled a sense of fear psychosis in people's minds. They started worrying that something disastrous could happen. We told them it was do or die. Containing the virus spread was the only way to prevent Bhilwara from becoming the source of COVID-19 spread countrywide. People had this feeling of responsibility, they followed all the preventive measures, and their active participation with the state government is what led to a successful containment of the virus," he said.
When asked about the number of days it took to implement the model and get the situation under control, the District Magistrate said that the action was not started as a model.
"It was a do or die attempt, we were just trying to prevent the spread. The curfew, as the people called 'Maha Curfew', was ruthlessly followed."
The district ensured the supply of essentials. About 45 vehicles were used for this purpose. Many NGOs also stepped up to help. Every department, from Panchayati Raj to education and labour department joined forces to fight this battle.
"As testing increases, it is natural to have a rise in the number of cases, however, asymptomatic young patients are not the focal point of worry here, it is the aged. We're mainly going to test and focus on the above 65 population now, to save their lives. The young ones have a strong immune system which can fight the virus," explained the DM.
"Initially, we were lacking medical facilities which were needed to care for the elderly, in which case mortality rate could have become a major concern. The CM has provided for a PCR lab and other required machinery here on request, and more medical facilities are in transit. After 15 days we'll have a capacity of 15,000 tests per day," the DM added.
As a final piece of advice to the administration countrywide, the District Magistrate urged, "Do not bother about the number of positive cases, bother about the elderly. This is going to continue, we have to continue with masks and social distancing in our lifestyle for another year or two till vaccines are invented and are made readily available for the masses."