Tracking to testing: Control rooms at forefront of efforts to contain Covid-19 spread

Control rooms are being set up across states to tackle the spread.
A doctor seen wearing protective body suit before conducting an autopsy on a coronavirus suspect, at mortuary near city police station, old MG road, in Gurugram.(Yogesh Kumar / Hindustan Times)
A doctor seen wearing protective body suit before conducting an autopsy on a coronavirus suspect, at mortuary near city police station, old MG road, in Gurugram.(Yogesh Kumar / Hindustan Times)
Updated on Apr 03, 2020 02:59 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondents

With more than 100 positive Covid-19 cases detected in at least nine states around the country -- apart from Delhi -- Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, among others, have set up control rooms to act as nodal centres to track the spread of the virus by processing real-time data from the districts, coordinating door-to-door surveillance, and testing people. Here is a look at what how these control rooms function.

Uttar Pradesh

A 1,600 sq feet hall on the fourth floor of the health directorate office in Lucknow has about 20 people sitting before computer screens processing data, making calls, and coordinating with health officials in 75 districts.

“We are connected to the state helpline (18001805145) to get inputs from across the state. We are also in touch with senior officials to pass on necessary inputs to districts,” said a staff member, requesting anonymity.

Additional space and hardware, such as computer terminals, have been allocated in the building to expand operations. The control room has data of nearly 60,000 people with names, cell numbers and addresses.

“The number of outbound calls had gone up to 2,000 a day when migrant workers were entering the state last week,” a control room official said.

UP has earmarked 246 hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients.

Click here for the complete coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic

Telangana

Control rooms have been set up at the state secretariat in Hyderabad, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation office, and at all three major police commissionerates in Hyderabad, Cyberabad and Rachakonda. Apart from these, each district has its own control rooms to monitor Covid-19 cases and to enforce the national lockdown.

The statewide control rooms are monitored by two IAS officers, Rahul Bojja and Anil Kumar; while the state ministers of information technology, health, animal husbandry and home coordinate regularly with the chief minister’s office.

The district control room interacts with the police and medical teams tracking Covid-19 suspects through door-to-door surveillance. An application, TSCop, helps geotag the houses of foreign returnees and their contacts. People under home quarantine have also been asked to take selfies and submit them online.

Three hospitals in Hyderabad have been dedicated for treating Covid-19 patients. A huge facility is coming up at Gachibowli sports complex with 14,000-beds.

Also Read: Govt may borrow 40k crore as cash-strapped states seek funds

Tamil Nadu

The state has a 200-person strong 24x7 control room run out of the Directorate of Public Health office in Chennai, in addition to specific control rooms in each district. “We have a portal (stopcorona.tn.gov.in) on which we put out information,” a senior official from the National Health Mission - Tamil Nadu said.

Districts provide three updates to the state control room every day: one on medical supplies, and two daily reports on the number of people quarantined; their health status, how many samples have been tested, and how many have tested positive.

Responsibilities have been divided at the state control room: collecting data on home quarantines; relaying information to district collectors and deans of medical colleges; an integrated disease surveillance portal desk where the acute respiratory infection details are entered; and a dedicated call centre for the public.

The state control room also has doctors, statistical assistants, and computer engineers.

Fourteen hospitals around the state have been earmarked to treat Covid-19 patients in the state.

Also Read: Coronavirus: How world reached a million cases in 93 days

Kerala

One-hundred and twenty officials work in the central control room in three shifts. Kerala’s round-the-clock toll free helpline (1056) is monitored from this facility. The head of the control room briefs the health secretary, who in turn, briefs the health minister and chief minister at a 4pm daily meeting.

The network of people on the ground (rapid response teams including primary health workers, Asha and Anganwadi workers) who survey their areas with the help of local body members and the police submit reports to district medical officers every day. These are fed to the district control room, which sends it to the state control room, where at least four people have been assigned to each district.

Apart from giving instructions to the ground staff, these control rooms track people who have returned from overseas and made self-declarations at airports and police stations. Those under quarantine use a geo-tracking application that maps their movements if they step out of their homes. Information about them is tracked by locak body workers and sent to the control rooms.

Kerala has six Covid-only hospitals and each of the 14 districts have Covid care homes. All district and taluk hospitals have isolation wards, according to a state health official.

Karnataka

A task force under chief minister BS Yediyurappa -- it includes deputy CM Ashwath Narayan, health minister B Sriramulu, and medical education minister K Sudhakar. The central control room has at least 120 people from various government departments tasked to update district-wise numbers, track developments, field calls, and coordinate efforts across the states.

Bangalore based Pro-digital labs helped the government setup the control room. While initially the tracking was through excel sheets, now a specialised app called “Quarantine Watch” has been built in-house by the government.

All those under home quarantine are required to upload hourly photos/selfies. This app automatically sends location data, which is checked to ensure that those being tracked are actually at the location they claim to be.

Locally, information at district level is fed by Asha workers, Anganwadi workers and village volunteers. The data is centrally collated at the war room to monitor progress and track patients.

Several government and private hospitals have been set aside for Covid-19 patients.

Maharashtra

The state has set up a dedicated control room in state secretariat, with 14 senior bureaucrats handling different responsibilities. For instance, Manoj Saunik, additional chief secretary, finance, has been tasked with ensuring that all government departments receive the grants allotted to them, while Rajiv Jalota, additional chief secretary, has been directed to formulate measures to implement all policy decisions taken by different departments.

The state has earmarked 30 government hospitals and 1000 private hospitals for free treatment of Covid-19 patients under Maharashtra Phule Jan Arogya Yojana.

Andhra Pradesh

A control centre at Vijayawada operates round-the-clock with staff from 21 government departments working in shifts. It fields about 1,000 calls every day on a toll free number (104) for Covid-19 related questions and concerns.

Two Inspector General-rank police officers are incharge of the facility.

A state-level task force has been set under chief minister’s office, while each district has separate control centres.

Village and ward volunteers, secretariat employees, auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) and Asha workers survey houses on a regular basis and record details of people who have come from abroad or other states and check for symptoms of Covid-19. Each volunteer monitors 50 households.

Four major government hospitals have been designated to deal only with Covid-19 cases and each district has a specialty hospital.

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