12,000-15,000 persons tested at Thane station for Covid, causes chaosUpdated: Sep 20, 2020, 01:06 IST
The mismanagement of the antigen testing centres set up at the Thane Railway Station to test every arriving passenger has led to a complete chaos at the premises over the last ten days.
Migrants arriving in long-distance trains have to wait in long queues with no social distancing norms followed to get tested. The Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) has set up four antigen testing counters at the railway station, which are insufficient to test the large crowd gathering at the station.
A TMC officer requesting anonymity said, “On an average, there are two to three long-distance trains that arrive daily at Thane station. The total number of passengers in these trains are anywhere between 12,000 and 15,000 daily. We test each of these passengers. Although it is time consuming, we ensure they get their reports and those tested positive are taken to the Covid Care Centres at Kharegaon or Bhayanderpada.”
Dinesh Chauhan, migrant worker from Patna who arrived at Thane Railway Station on Tuesday, expressed that there were so many people waiting for the test at the same time that it becomes difficult to maintain social distancing.
Chauhan, who works in a construction company, added, “Even after taking down all personal details including contact address and numbers, they do not let us go until the reports have arrived. It is very tiring after travelling for more than 24 hours to wait for almost two hours to get tested, and again wait for half-an-hour to 45 minutes till the reports arrived.”
Shankar Kumar, 42, a resident of Murshidabad in West Bengal who returned to Thane on Friday, said, “We had to wait for more than an hour in a queue to get tested, after which we were asked to wait till the reports came. There was hardly enough space to maintain social distancing. Even in the train we were made to sit at a distance between each other, but over a period of time people started moving around and there was hardly any social distancing. Although I was tested negative, I came to know that one of the co-passengers whom I had spotted in the same compartment has tested positive. I am worried now and will have to strictly follow isolation for a few days even if it means no income.”
Medical workers at the railway station are also overworked. “We have to ensure that those who have tested do not flee, some even end up giving wrong addresses, making it difficult to trace them. In order to ensure that social distancing was maintained, we have to indulge in crowd management as well. While testing, we have to ensure we put the samples in the right vials and proper details of the passengers are also noted,” said a medical volunteer who is at the antigen testing counter at Thane railway station.
Dr Vipin Sharma, commissioner, TMC, said, “We expect people to cooperate and follow social distancing rules. We have already started levying a fine for those who are not following these rules. We do not have adequate manpower to manage the crowd. People need to follow the mandatory wearing masks, social distancing and hand sanitisation, and learn to live with Covid.
“Most of our medical staff are focused on the ‘My Family, My Responsibility’ survey as every team requires someone from a medical background. Moreover, we have to ensure that our current practices of having fever clinics and other testing centres are not disturbed. With more screening, we need an additional number of fever clinics as well,” added Sharma.
Meanwhile, twelve officers working at the station to test the migrants, although asymptomatic, have tested positive. “Twelve of my staff working near the station area are positive despite taking various measures. They are under isolation and we have to manage alternative staff for Covid duty. This is added pressure. We are short-staffed yet trying our best to control the pandemic,” added Sharma.
Sources claim that 150 to 200 migrants at the station test positive on a daily basis and this was the main reason for increase in the number of cases in Thane.
A senior TMC official claimed, “Overall positivity of Thane city on a daily basis is hovering between 6 per cent and 7 per cent. However, the positivity rate of those coming from the station is more than 10 per cent. We do not wish to create an insider-outsider divide within the city as all those who come from other states are essential labourers who contribute to the progress of the city. Moreover, this is a small number when compared to the many that travel by road into the city.”