Krishna district Joint Collector Dr K Madhavi Latha said voluntary reporting for tests is the key to containing the spread of COVID-19. “Every individual should behave responsibly. Anyone who comes across any symptomatic person, who refuses to report himself/herself for tests, then neighbours or family members should report him or her to the health officials.
If we follow these basic guidelines, the spread of the virus can be contained,” she said. In an interaction with Ritika Arun Vaishali, the 2014-batch IAS officer explains how her personal and professional life has changed since the coronavirus outbreak.
What are your responsibilities with respect to COVID-19?
I am responsible for monitoring all activities related to COVID-19. They include sample collection, admitting patients to COVID-19 designated hospitals, shifting people to quarantine centres, keeping a check on their treatment, sending and receiving migrants, incoming and outgoing passengers under Vande Bharat Mission and those arriving and departing by domestic flights and their quarantine.
How has your personal life changed after the COVID-19 duty?
I have no personal life left at all. Since March, I have not spent an hour with my children, husband and parents. My day starts around 6 am when my colleagues and subordinates call me regarding the day’s developments. After work, I come home around 11 pm. I go home to have food, fresh up and sleep for four to five hours.
As compared to your responsibilities before corona, what changes have you experienced professionally?
The health aspect is new to all of us. We never had a health crisis before. From land, civil supplies and other law and order issues, the work has suddenly changed. We were not imparted an epidemic or pandemic training. The work related to coronavirus is so dynamic, it keeps changing almost every hour. It is easy to perform duties if we have standard operating procedure (SOP) for every situation. But the SOP keeps changing at such a rapid pace and we have to change strategies every single day.
What is the biggest challenge that you have faced till now?
The biggest challenge so far was preparing the health team, followed by the migrants’ issue. Convincing industrialists to pay salaries to their workers during lockdown was difficult and making people who come from other States, especially high-incidence ones, aware of the risks involved if they immediately meet their family members. We have to make sure that they do not become the next super-spreaders.
At any point, did you feel like giving all up? What was the most toughest thing to do?
Professionally speaking, there isn’t anything that is tough since we work as a team. But, on a personal level, it became a tad difficult with the migrants telling their sad stories. With some of them saying
that they wanted to go back to their native places as they didn’t want to die away from home, I just could not concentrate on my work. Despite being tired mentally and physically, it was difficult to
sleep peacefully at night due to the psychological trauma that this special duty has brought along.
How do you justify a situation where someone needs help and officials refuse saying ‘it does not fall under my jurisdiction’?
It is unfortunate, but true. Some officials behave like this. During our IAS interview, we all say that we want to join the service because we want to serve the society. In my view, such officials should be punished. There are some who have gone out of their way to help those in distress. Those who shirk their responsibility by making all sorts of excuses should learn a thing or two from them. This is the time when we have been presented an opportunity to help people.
What precautions do you take at home to keep your family members safe from being infected?
The first 10 days after corona outbreak, I did not go near my family members. I stayed in a separate room. But staying away from my children is a nightmare. But I make sure that I don’t go near them before sanitising myself once I return from work. Also no one is allowed to touch my belongings. I still do not go near my parents as they are the most vulnerable.