RWAs, market associations, taxi and auto unions to help implement revised Covid management plan
The revised order, issued by the government’s Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), directs the district administration to enlist all SSGs with the help of RWAs, municipal corporations, the police, etc.Updated: Jul 10, 2020, 02:01 IST
To implement the Delhi government’s revised Covid-19 response plan, which was notified on July 8, the district administrations are planning to rope in residents’ welfare associations, market associations and auto and taxi unions in the Capital.
As per the revised plan, Special Surveillance Groups (SSGs) comprising domestic help, drivers of autorickshaws, taxis and good carriers, daily wagers such as plumbers, electricians, carpenters and mechanics, and those working at stores selling essential supplies have to be screened for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Some district magistrates HT spoke to said that they have already been screening some categories of SSGs such as those working as help in markets and homes. During the door-to-door survey undertaken by the district administrations, a senior official said, a sizeable population, especially those living in the lower-income group neighbourhoods or clusters, was screened.
“But now, we will scale it up and rope in RWAs, market associations and transport unions to cover a large number of people and also create awareness about Covid-19. We have mobile testing vans, which we will deploy for testing,” a district magistrate said, requesting anonymity.
The revised order, issued by the government’s Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), directs the district administration to enlist all SSGs with the help of RWAs, municipal corporations, the police, etc.
While RWAs in the city have welcomed the move, they asserted that they had been asking the government to screen people involved in the informal sector since May, when it allowed electricians, plumbers, domestic help to resume work.
Atul Goyal, the president of United Residents Joint Action (URJA) said, “We were criticised when we asked for something similar two months ago, though some RWAs did take excessive measures. If the government had undertaken this measure earlier, it would have helped contain the spread of the disease. RWAs played a crucial role in effective enforcement of the lockdown. The government should have taken RWAs in confidence regarding its Covid-19 management plan. But better late than never.”
According to some RWAs, this step will be of little use now as the infection is widespread and cases, including isolated cases, are being reported now. “Covid-19 cases are being reported from every colony. It is very late now. But whatever help is required, we will provide it to the government,” BS Vohra, the president of East Delhi RWA front, said.
As for the screening of SSGs, another district magistrate who requested anonymity said that those involved in surveillance work such as Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and ANMs (auxiliary nurse midwives) are aware of localities where a large population of autorickshaw or e-rickshaw drivers and domestic help lives. As per the revised Covid-19 response plan, major groups of SSGs in the districts have to be “compulsorily covered”.
“We have been doing door-to-door screening and our special focus has been low-income group areas or clusters. We know the areas where a large number of these people live. Now we will do more focused screening and testing. We will make a list of people working in residential colonies with the help of RWAs and ask them to encourage people to get themselves screened and tested if they have any symptoms,” the district magistrate said.
All individuals belonging to the special surveillance groups also have to be screened and their health records fed into a separate database.
If any individual from a special surveillance group is found positive for Covid-19, a system has to be set up to enable tracing all people in the locality who have come in contact with the patient and assign them 15 days’ home isolation.
With a majority of activities allowed in Unlock 2.0, the demand for autorickshaws, e-rickshaws and goods carriers has gone up. With Metro service yet to restart and buses not allowed to ferry more than 20 passengers at a time, a sizeable population is dependent on auto-rickshaws and e-rickshaws for their daily commute.
“Auto or e-rickshaw drivers are part of a high-risk group as they ferry a lot of passengers daily. While we have been screening a majority of other SSGs, we have not covered this segment. We are preparing a plan under which our teams will visit the taxi and auto stands and screen these people. We will take help from the auto and taxi unions to ensure a large percentage of them get screened and, if required, tested,” a district surveillance officer said on condition of anonymity.
Welcoming the government’s decision, auto and taxi unions in the city said that special camps should be held for testing at railway stations and the airport. Rajender Soni, the general secretary of Delhi Auto-rickshaw Sangh and Delhi Pradesh Taxi Union, said, “Our people are vulnerable as we come in contact with a lot of people daily. We have been demanding special screening of auto and taxi drives so that those testing positive for Covid-19 can get timely treatment. We welcome the government’s decision.”
The Delhi government spokesperson did not respond for comment despite repeated calls and messages.