Maharashtra’s Covid jackpot — village that best controls spread will get Rs 50 lakh

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray | Representational image | Photo: @OfficeofUT | Twitter File photo

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Mumbai: With several predominantly rural districts still lagging behind Maharashtra’s average Covid positivity rate, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has decided to adopt a bottom up approach in controlling the pandemic.

The state government has laid down guidelines for all villages to make themselves Covid free, and has turned this into a competition among villages. At the end of the month, the top three performing village panchayats in each of Maharashtra’s six divisions will get a prize money of Rs 50 lakh, Rs 25 lakh and Rs 15 lakh respectively. 

The guidelines are based on interventions that have worked in Maharashtra’s urban areas such as door-to-door surveys to identify people showing symptoms, helplines for triage, institutional quarantine for high-risk contacts and speedy vaccinations. 

An official from the state’s rural development department said, “A number of villages and their sarpanches have done a great job of halting the spread of Covid. The idea is if we make our family, our mohalla, our neighbourhood and village free of the virus, then it won’t be long before entire talukas, districts and the state is Covid free as well.”

In his public address Sunday, CM Thackeray had lauded villages such as Hiware Bazar and Bhoyare Khurd in the Ahmednagar district, Antroli and Ghatne village in Solapur district, and Bhosi in Nanded for taking measures to bring the number of Covid cases to zero, and appealed to others to follow in their footsteps. 

According to state government data, Maharashtra’s active Covid caseload dropped 67 per cent to 2,16,016 as of 2 June as compared with 6,68,353 a month ago, The average weekly test positivity rate is 8.47 per cent. However, in 13 of the state’s 36 districts, including Raigad, Ratnagiri, Satara, Sangli, Beed and Osmanabad among others, the positivity rate is higher than the state’s average. 

Also read: Modi govt said no to door-to-door vaccine drive. So Mumbai came up with another option

Five teams to monitor all aspects, from tracing to vaccinations 

According to the state government’s guidelines, all villages in Maharashtra will have to set up five teams comprising various members of the gram panchayat, healthcare workers and doctors of the primary healthcare centres or sub-centres, private doctors, pharmacists and social volunteers. 

The first team will be responsible for surveying all families in the village. 

This team, on the lines of Thackeray’s ‘My Family My Responsibility’ campaign, will conduct a door-to-door survey to see whether anyone is showing Covid symptoms, record oxygen levels and temperature, and make a note of people with comorbidities such as autoimmune diseases, asthma, diabetes and hypertension. 

The second team will be in charge of creating institutional quarantine facilities — separate for those already infected by Covid and those who are high-risk contacts — with amenities such as hot water, hygienic toilets, food and medicines. 

“This team will also ensure Covid positive patients and their high-risk contacts are quarantined and will also be responsible for monitoring patient’s health in these centres to see if anyone needs to be moved to a hospital,” the above-mentioned state government official said. 

A third ‘doctor helpline’ team comprising of the village’s private doctors, doctors associated with the primary healthcare centre or sub-centre and the gram panchayat, and pharmacists, will triage Covid positive patients, keep a check on their health status and move them to the district hospital if needed. 

This helpline team will sort issues related to bed allotment, shortage of medicines and also provide patients information about Covid complications such as Mucormycosis, the rural development official said. 

A fourth team will comprise drivers willing to ferry Covid patients for tests and to hospitals. They will maintain a ready fleet of cars for the purpose with a protective shield behind the driver’s seat.  

A fifth team will be in charge of increasing the village’s Covid vaccination numbers and getting all above 45 with comorbidities inoculated on priority. 

Extra points for helping Covid-affected farmers, children 

In a government resolution dated 2 June, the state’s rural development department has allocated points for every function of all the five teams to judge villages on their performance in following the guidelines and bringing their Covid tally to zero. The villages will be judged out of a total of 50 points. 

For instance, four points each are for rigorous door-to-door surveys and contact tracing, and conducting antigen tests. Another two points each are for institutionally isolating those with symptoms but with negative antigen tests, keeping the mortality rate at a minimum, and administering vaccine doses in line with the Union government’s guidelines. 

According to the government resolution, villages that go beyond this basic duty of tracing, testing, triaging and vaccination will also get some additional points. 

Accordingly, villages will get points for  ensuring that children orphaned due to Covid are being taken care of; perishable produce such as dairy items and vegetables of farmers who test positive reaches the market on time; implementing special safety measures for children and pregnant women; extending any help required to families where all members are down with Covid and so on. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Maharashtra quadrupled testing, but rural-urban disparity means it’s still a laggard among states


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