In Covid distress calls to police, a shift from panic to awareness

According to PCR (police control room) data accessed by Hindustan Times, coronavirus disease-related calls have gone from 3,062 every week in March and April to 45 between August 5 and 11.
Migrant workers, who returned to Delhi from their native state, wait for their rapid antigen test report, at a bus terminal, amidst the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in New Delhi.(REUTERS)
Migrant workers, who returned to Delhi from their native state, wait for their rapid antigen test report, at a bus terminal, amidst the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in New Delhi.(REUTERS)
Updated on Aug 23, 2020 03:38 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByPrawesh Lama

An HT analysis of distress calls data received at the Delhi Police control room since March, when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, shows how the response of residents to the disease has gone from shock and panic to that of awareness and learning to live with it while observing social distancing, hand hygiene and using face masks, said senior officers of the police control room(PCR) that keeps an eye on all calls received at 112.

According to PCR (police control room) data accessed by Hindustan Times, coronavirus disease-related calls have gone from 3,062 every week in March and April to 45 between August 5 and 11.

Initially, majority of Covid-related calls were from people who said they had symptoms and didn’t know what to do about it. Junior personnel who attended the calls said “it felt like working in a hospital”.

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In the first week of the lockdown (March 22-March 31), the control room received only 44 calls from such persons. This increased to 223 in the first week of April. Such calls continued increasing until June 15 -- it had touched a high of 1,368 -- after which the numbers decreased, shows PCR data.

In the third week of August, only 116 persons called the control room, claiming to have symptoms of the disease, data shows.

During the initial weeks, several incidents of quarrel and fights between people on issues related to the diseases were also reported. Majority of such calls were from people who suspected their neighbours of carrying the virus. On April 8, two women doctors working at a hospital were assaulted by their neighbour, who suspected them of being infected. On May 14, in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj, a woman was locked inside her house by neighbours who said she was carrying the virus.

Following many such cases, police had issued a warning against any attack on the front line medical workers.

Records show that to date, medical personnel made 144 distress calls. Most calls were received at the control room April and May. Between April 16 and 30, police received 42 such calls, followed by 21 in the first fortnight of May. These calls have decreased. The control room received only 10 such calls between July 16 and August 11.

An officer at the police control room, “Fewer crimes were being reported in the early days of the lockdown. We knew that one of every 10 calls we received would be related to the disease. Initially, we knew little about the disease. We did not know that many people with mild symptoms recover if they isolate themselves at home. In the early weeks, if anyone called us claiming to have information about a Covid-19 patient, we would inform the local police, who called up the district magistrate’s office. It was crazy.”

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A second officer, who also works with the PCR unit, said during the initial weeks, they felt like working in a hospital. “People panicked on noticing symptoms in neighbours and called us. It is better now. We even counsel some callers these days and explain how people like us who have to step out and deal with the citizens have learnt to live with the disease. All that one must do is to follow the health’s ministry’s guidelines.”

People also called up the police, seeking food and provisions. In the first 10 days of the lockdown, police received 5,349 calls, which decreased to 4,722 between April 1 and April 15. Such calls have almost stopped now. Between July 16 and August 16, police received only three such calls.

A Delhi police spokesperson attributed the decrease in such calls to its food distribution drive. Delhi Police distributed over five million food packets to the urban poor and homeless. They distributed 145 tonnes of dry ration. Their efforts earned the appreciation by home minister Amit Shah. He had tweeted, “ Delhi Police, an organization that lives up to its Motto- Shanti Sewa Nyaya. Very proud of @DelhiPolice. Together we will win this battle.”

Dr Puneet Mishra, professor of community medicine, AIIMS, said during the initial days, the word coronavirus was like a ‘death warrant’.

“ People thought they would die if they catch the virus. Now, people have learnt to live with the virus. There are many reasons for this. Earlier, people had little or no information about the disease. People did not know who to approach for help. There was lockdown and cases were rising. People had never been in such a situation. Now, people know where to go, who to approach. There is an abundance of testing centres. It wasn’t so then. Even as there are more cases now, panic is less and hence fewer distress calls. People are out on the roads and in the market places wearing masks. They know that they can even recover by taking medicines and staying home.”

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Monday, November 29, 2021