In a unique initiative, the West Bengal government has set up a 'COVID warrior club' in Murshidabad district, comprising people who have recovered from the disease and willing to aid the administration and health workers in containing the pandemic.
At present, 60 people who had recovered from the disease, have been enrolled as members of the club, set up at Behrampore in Murshidabad district, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday.
"We held counselling sessions for those who had defeated COVID-19, and are now leading a normal life. Some of them have come forward to serve others suffering from the disease. They can work as helpers at different hospitals, serve food, or talk to other COVID-19 patients... They should not feel scared," the chief minister said.
Of the 60 members, 10 each have agreed to work in Murshidabad Medical College and Malda Medical College, while 40 others will serve at the Kolkata Medical College and Hospital, Banerjee stated.
The government will pay the members an honorarium, and bear expenses of their food and accommodation, she said.
The CM insisted that her government will set up similar clubs in every district of Bengal.
"We request all those who have defeated the disease to come forward and serve others," the CM said, and asked chief secretary and home secretary to issue instructions for constituting such clubs in other parts of the state.
Expressing concern over the growing number of coronavirus cases in the state, Banerjee requested the Centre to immediately stop long distance and special trains as well as flights to West Bengal from five states with high incidence of COVID-19 cases.
She, however, did not mention the names of the states.
"This (number of infections) went up once people from outside started returning, and the curve continued to move upward. The chief secretary has made a request to temporarily stop trains (to Bengal) from places having high incidence of COVID-19 cases so that the spread of the virus can be arrested," she said.
The TMC supremo also urged the Union government to limit domestic flights to the state to just one day a week.
"We have no problem if flights come to Bengal from other states, barring from those places which have registered the maximum number of COVID-19 cases. We, however, request the Centre to limit the number of flights from other states, and allow these to land in Bengal just once every week.
"We will try and manage the number of people coming to the state on that day. Managing them throughout the week is impossible for us... Neither the civil aviation ministry nor the railways have come up with any mechanism (for handling these returnees)," Banerjee added.
Hailing the doctors and other health workers who have been working day in and day out to combat the pandemic, the chief minister declared July 1 as Doctors' Day and announced statewide holiday as a mark of respect to them.
She also urged the Centre to declare the day as a national holiday, and requested other states to follow suit.
Banerjee, who holds the health portfolio, said a telemedicine service to help patients who are unable to visit doctors amid the current pandemic, will soon be made functional.
"We are planning to start a telemedicine service on COVID-19 and other diseases. Hopefully, from July 1, we will be able to start the initiative. Several people are finding it difficult to visit doctors amid the lockdown. This initiative will give them a chance to consult doctors over phone. There will be separate phone numbers allotted for every district," she added.
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