New Delhi: As the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths in India continues to rise, Rajasthan’s Bhilwara has bucked the trend, being the only district with a high number of cases to show a decline in new infections.
Speaking to News18, IAS officer Tina Dabi the SDM of Bhilwara city, said it could easily have gone the other way. “Bhilwara could have been the next Italy. We had the numbers, we could have been staring at community transmission,” she said.
Dabi is also part of the district administration team credited for the successful containment of the novel coronavirus in the hotspot. “An early and complete lockdown is what stopped it. This is what we need right now,” she said.
It all began when a doctor tested positive in a private hospital in Bhilwara city. Soon after, 15 medical practitioners were also found to be infected. The private hospital where doctors and nurses tested positive came under Dabi’s jurisdiction.“When we looked at the hospital records to ascertain how many people could be affected, we realised how big the numbers are and realised that it has become a hotspot,” said Dabi.
#IndiaFightsCOVID19 – What worked in our favour was that we were very aggressive and firm in ensuring that we want complete lockdown because we were facing the possibility of a community spread: SDM Bhilwara @dabi_tina tells @Zebaism. pic.twitter.com/bx498xS4DS? CNNNews18 (@CNNnews18) April 8, 2020
The district administration decided right away to go for a complete shutdown and Bhilwara was sealed off, much before the nationwide lockdown that came into effect on March 25.
“I remember that on March 20, we were shutting down the entire city, telling people not to panic and asking them to go back to their houses. We were shutting down all the shops. It was a challenge to make people understand as this was not happening anywhere else back then. It did take more than a day, but it was this that worked in our favour. We were very aggressive and firm that we want complete shutdown,” said Dabi.
After the shutdown, the administration began screening all suspected patients and eventually ended up screening most of the city’s residents. “An aggressive screening process was conducted in different phases. First, medical staff and their families and contacts, then the families of those they came in contact with and eventually, the whole city was screened,” the IAS officer said.
The administration also ensured strict enforcement of social distancing norms. Community leaders were made “Corona fighters” to monitor social distancing, especially in villages.
“As our DM Rajendra Bhatt calls it, ‘ruthless containment’ is what we did in Bhilwara. Aggressive screening, testing and lockdown is the Bhilwara model and I believe it should be replicated in other affected districts as well,” said Dabi.