Bengal’s Covid Warrior Club back in action as cases continue to soar
It is 8am on Friday and there is a flurry of activity at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Salt Lake, one of the largest stadiums in India. A group of young people, who had survived the first wave of Covid-19 last year, are getting ready to join their duty at various state-run hospitals in the city after a gap of almost four months.
“It was on January 20 this year that I had last been attached to any hospital treating Covid patients. Thereafter, I was asked to go home as Covid-19 cases had declined. Now that cases have shot up again, I was asked to join from April 20,” said Tohidul Mollah, 19, member of the Covid Warrior Club and attached to Sambhunath Pandit Hospital.
It was in June 2020, when the first wave of the pandemic had struck, that the West Bengal government started Covid Warrior Clubs which comprised mostly young people who had survived Covid-19. They were stationed as attendants in various hospitals to help doctors and nurses in the treatment Covid-19 patients. There were around 680 of such warriors from across the state.
However, once the number of cases began dropping, their services were not needed anymore. “Most of us were asked to go home when the cases dropped from around 4,000 per day in October last year to less than 200 early this year. The state-run hospital, where I was stationed along with a few others, even stopped giving us lunch. Dinner and breakfast were, however, served at Salt Lake stadium where several such warriors were staying,” said Bapan Dewan, a club member from Murshidabad district.
The daily count of Covid-19 cases in the state shot up to 11,948 on Thursday and the government is more than willing to have the volunteers back.
“Covid Warriors were engaged on a contractual basis against a monthly remuneration of ₹15,000. Now that cases have surged, their contracts have been renewed till May 31,” said a senior government official.
The state had around 63,500 active cases till April 21 out of which around 6,700 patients were admitted in various government-run and private hospitals. Members of the club are mostly deployed in the city-based hospitals where the rush of patients is higher.
“We are back in action to help in the fight against the second wave. When the first wave had hit and people were scared to go near Covid-19 patients, we attended to them; helping them with food and medicines, sometimes taking them to the toilet and at times, boosting their morale as we had survived the disease ourselves,” said Mukhtar Sk, a 34-year-old member of the club attached to the Covid ward in the state-run NRS Medical College and Hospital.