Testing labourers for Covid major challenge for Panchkula health dept

People have a fear that they will be picked up from their houses if they tested positive
Women labourers being tested at a brick kiln in Chharnia village of Panchkula on Thursday.(HT PHOTO)
Women labourers being tested at a brick kiln in Chharnia village of Panchkula on Thursday.(HT PHOTO)
Updated on Oct 29, 2020 11:05 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Panchkula | ByTanbir Dhaliwal

Panchkula: Tracking and convincing labourers, who have returned in thousands to Panchkula district this October, to give samples for Covid-19 testing is proving to be a major headache for the health department, which is “hardly getting any support from other departments”.

On October 27, the Covid sampling team spent over three hours in a brick kiln at Charnia village in Panchkula but could convince only 56 out of nearly 400 labourers working there to get tested. This, despite the fact that Panchkula’s Covid-19 nodal officer Dr Rajiv Narwal himself visited hut to hut requesting people to give their swab samples.

Some went into hiding, some got rude, others agreed but did not come and all had but one reply: “our tests have been done in our hometown of Uttar Pradesh”. One labourer even asked if he would be paid to give the sample.

Naveen Sharma, assistant labour commissioner, Panchkula, said: “During the pandemic, around 24,000 labourers were provided transportation back to their hometowns. Now, 32,000 have returned, most of them working in brick kilns, poultry farms, construction and industry.”

Dr Narwal said: “These are high-risk populations, so we have to track them as soon as possible. We have finally witnessed a decline in Covid-19 cases, and now if we miss this population, it may lead to a surge.”

Since October 1, samples of 2,241 labourers working in the industrial sector have been taken and 54 have been found positive.

From Tuesday onwards, three brick kilns are being covered daily. “There are 53 brick kilns in Panchkula district, out of which 25 are in the area of Raipur Rani, Kot, Barwala and 28 in the belt of Kalka, Pinjore and Nanakpur,” said Dr Narwal.

“There must be around 100-150 labourers per kiln, and each has a family of four or five. So expect at least 400 persons per brick kiln,” he added.

Shri Radhe Krishan brick kiln in Chharnia village was the first stop. “I am standing here for the last half an hour, but nobody has come,” said Dr Bharat Bhan, who was sweating in his PPE kit. After a while, ASHA worker Tej Kaur brought two women, one of them was nine months pregnant. “We have got our tests done, so we don’t want another test,” said Farzana, who later gave samples reluctantly.

Kaur said that people had a fear that they will be picked up from their houses if they tested positive.

At last, Dr Narwal went along with the ASHA worker and the munshi of the kiln to convince people sitting inside their tiny brick homes. Still, only a few of them agreed to give samples. Luckily, no one tested positive.

When asked if it was always challenging to convince labourers, Dr Narwal said: “They are easier to convince than the educated class. A team once went to a society of IAS officers and no one came down for sampling. At last, we had to approach the DC who gave directions to lodge FIRs against those who don’t cooperate.”

Dr Jasjeet Kaur, Panchkula civil surgeon, said: “Taking samples has become the most difficult task these days, as people do not cooperate at all.”

There are 22 centres across the district where testing is done, but hardly 10-12 persons or at times none visit these centres, said Dr Narwal.

In the absence of voluntary testing, health teams have strengthened active testing and five teams of three members each visit spots and take samples.

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Monday, November 29, 2021