Door-to-door survey in Delhi to map coronavirus spread
Authorities began gearing up on Wednesday to launch a mammoth screening campaign covering all households in the national capital to check people for signs of Covid-19, drafting in staff from the civic bodies and setting up new control rooms to coordinate measures.Updated: Jun 25, 2020, 07:45 IST
Authorities began gearing up on Wednesday to launch a mammoth screening campaign covering all households in the national capital to check people for signs of Covid-19, drafting in staff from the civic bodies and setting up new control rooms to coordinate measures.
The action plan was detailed in the minutes of a meeting – seen by HT – held by one of the district task forces on Tuesday, and will now likely be the template for the other districts, according to officials who asked not to be named. “There are district-level meetings tomorrow to decide on a strategy,” this person added.
A government official separately said that the chief secretary had written to all district magistrates to begin forming teams. “Survey of entire Delhi will begin on June 26 and the aim is to complete it by July 6,” this official said, quoting from the communication.
Among the key decisions taken at the Tuesday meeting were to deploy staff from the municipal corporations for the household screening, an exercise that could require at least 3,000 workers for each of the city’s 11 districts.
“Since ASHA workers and ANMs [auxiliary nurse midwife] are overburdened with the work of contact tracing, shifting of positive patients to Covid Care Centre, monitoring of home isolation, it will be difficult for them to continue with the house-to-house screening... After detailed discussions, it was decided to use the existing manpower setup for the screening on a daily basis,” the minutes said.
Similar screening, which involves checking people for signs of a fever and asking them about how they have felt in recent days, has been underway in containment zones. The first such exercise took place in late March when 450 houses were surveyed in Janakpuri that recorded Delhi’s first cluster of cases. The index patient was a 38-year-old woman who had returned from Saudi Arabia and passed on the infection to several of her family members and two mohalla clinic doctors.
The civic bodies – which includes the New Delhi municipal council, the North Delhi municipal corporation, the South Delhi municipal corporation, and the East Delhi municipal corporation – employ an army of workers that includes health department staff (such as mosquito breeding checkers), sanitation workers and school teachers.
“Dengue breeding checker (DBC) and anti-malaria unit staff are likely to be roped in for the wider screening process by being equipped with thermometers, etc,” a civic agency official told HT, asking not to be named.
Cumulatively, the three civic agencies – North, South and East – have around 5,000-6,000 DBC and malaria unit workers. Estimates for NDMC were not immediately available.
According to Tuesday’s discussions, the civic bodies will have to appoint a nodal officer at ward level to monitor the door-to-door screening. The nodal officer has to divide the jurisdiction into sectors and appoint a survey officer in each sector, who will be screening the people for Covid-19 like symptoms.
All wards will be attached to a nearby dispensary for necessary guidance and information collected at the end of the exercise will be compiled by the chief district medical officer, the minutes indicated.
The household canvassing is one of the main interventions planned by authorities in the national capital to improve surveillance of the outbreak, which has grown rapidly in the last week. Delhi added 3,788 new cases on Wednesday, taking its tally of cumulative infections to over 70,000. Of these, 26,588 cases are currently active.
The other steps include a fresh round of screening of all households in containment zones and a serological survey for antibodies of 20,000 people from across the Capital. The measures are part of a ‘Revised Delhi Covid Response Plan’ that was drawn up by the Delhi government following a meeting last week with the Union home ministry.
The fresh round of screenings in containment will need to be completed by June 30. According to officials, the government has provided civil defence volunteers to help the over-stretched district teams to conduct these surveys.
The volunteers and health teams will visit all the houses that have been screened earlier and use an app called the “SS Corona” app where the volunteers have to fill in multiple-choice questions in each household.
“This has automated the task. The app is very simple to use and the volunteers just have to ask the questions and click on the applicable answers. An excel sheet is prepared automatically each evening and the report is sent to the state integrated disease surveillance programme,” said a second district official, asking not to be named.
The data can then be used to map out areas that are reporting more fever cases and help in further surveillance activities, the official said.
When teams visit the houses, they also encourage people to come to testing centres and get the rapid antigen test, which can give results within 30 minutes, the official quoted above added.
Delhi had rolled out the rapid testing kits last Thursday and this Tuesday the Indian Council of Medical Research approved the use of the kits in containment zones, hospitals, and private labs across India.