BENGALURU: The 8,154 booth-level committees, set up to micro-manage the spiralling Covid-19 situation in Bengaluru, has run into a now familiar hurdle — outdated lists and wrong addresses of people who need to be quarantined. The committees have been tasked with conducting surveys of vulnerable citizens, tracing primary and secondary contacts of patients and quarantining them, ensuring reverse isolation of senior citizens, among others.
Maria, a citizen volunteer from Shanatala Nagar, said they are getting lists of people who have to be home-quarantined, but when they call, they find out that the people have already completed their 14-day isolation period. “Names of people from Koramanagala and Vyalikaval are on the list for Shantal Nagar volunteers and, at times, there are completely wrong addresses. Data entry appears to be a problem. Overworked officials are entering wrong details,” Maria said.
“We had online training in Kannada which several of us did not understand. Additions and deletions of names of primary/secondary contacts and travel returnees are not happening. The BBMP seems to have lost the plot,” she rued. Another challenge is the lack of volunteers to visit homes of Covid-positive patients. While many patients buy medical equipment and medicines themselves, many who are not able to afford it receive aid from BBMP.
Shiva Kumar, a volunteer overseeing 23 booths in Jaraganhalli ward, said, “We do not have enough field volunteers to visit the homes of Covid patients, give them free pulse oximeters and train them on how to use them. A sticker has to be pasted outside their house and helpline numbers need to be given to them.” Kumar said they need 4-5 medical students, lab technicians and other volunteers in every ward.
Manoj Kumar Meena, IAS officer in charge of East Zone, said the problem of wrong addresses extends to Covid-positive patients as well. About 20 per cent of the addresses given by patients in the zone are either wrong or incomplete, he said. “They give the address of their office, which is in the east zone, but their place of residence is elsewhere. We get these addresses from the ICMR portal. We need to find the patients so we can shift them to hospitals or Covid Care Centres, trace their primary and secondary contacts, etc.
The police are roped in at this point and they are able to trace the patients in 80 per cent of the cases, but it takes 5-6 days,” Kumar said. Booth-level committee members themselves testing positive while on frontline duty is another challenge, he added. A senior IAS officer overseeing Covid management in the city said as soon as a person tests positive, they become reluctant to interact with government staff due to stigma and phobia and hence, stay out of the system. The government is trying to remove the stigma by conducting awareness campaigns. “The public needs to realise that if they don’t give the correct address or phone number, we can’t reach out to them to help. It is sad that the public is not co-operating on this front,” he said.