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India Coronavirus Dispatch: ASHA workers face notices, FIRs after protests

Stories of doctors who died of Covid, Control measures stepped up in Kochi, no new hits in cinema houses--news on how the country is coping with the pandemic

Coronavirus | health workers in India | cinemas

Shreegireesh Jalihal  |  New Delhi 

Coronavirus, covid, tests
Kochi has witnessed a six-fold jump in the number of health workers who have tested positive for Coronavirus since mid-August.

What moviegoing is like now: After months of being shut down and running campaigns like #UnlockCinemaSaveJobs, theatres in India have finally opened up. Theatres are now showing recent hits as no new releases have hit the big screens yet. All transactions at the cinema are now mandatorily cashless. All tickets are also paperless. There is a standard temperature check at the entrance to the halls. Anyone who displays symptoms of Covid will be refunded in full, according to officials. Sanitiser dispensers are also placed at various points across the halls. Wearing masks and maintaining social distance is mandatory. Most interestingly, popcorn is now served with a lid on the container. Further, the interval time for films has been extended by 15 minutes to make room for a more intensive sanitisation process. Read more here.

Control measures stepped up: Kochi has witnessed a six-fold jump in the number of health workers who have tested positive for since mid-August. So far, the district has seen 700 workers testing positive for the virus. Officials say that community spread has made it impossible to determine if the health workers contracted the virus inside health facilities. The local administration has now stepped up control measures to curb the spread to medical workers. The first step, they say, is to educate workers on appropriate use of PPE. Further, expert committees have been constituted to assess hospital hygiene. The major challenge is to tackle crowding and ensure distancing continue to remain a problem, according to officials. Read more here.

Long Read

Doctors who died of Covid: The number of doctors who have died on the frontline of the battle against Covid-19 stands at 568, according to the IMA. But behind the real tragedies lie in the stories behind the grim statistics. The deaths include starry-eyed beginners and doctors who refused to retire. There are cases of doctors from Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra who would treat their patients for a pittance. Dr Ismail Hussain from Andhra, for example, would charge his poor patients only Rs 2. Joginder Chaudhary, 28, meanwhile, was the son of a farmer who had just begun his career as a doctor in Delhi. While doctors are among the most vulnerable sections of the population, many of them have been treating the risk of infection as only a ‘professional hazard’. A doctor who has recovered says he felt the virus’ potency as it engulfed his body. “No one is invincible,” he says. Read more here.

War against ASHA workers: In Madhya Pradesh, ASHA workers staged protests seeking regularisation of their employment and higher wages. A week later, some of the workers were issued show cause notices that warned them of service termination over ‘absenteeism’. The ASHAs have demanding better working conditions and pay ever since the pandemic hit. They have served as a crucial link between the administration and the people by functioning as a roving on-ground army of contact tracers. Absenteeism, they say, is a ridiculous charge since they are involved in fieldwork. A similar criminalisation of dissent from ASHA ranks was observed in Delhi and Haryana where FIRs have been filed against protesting workers. Paid a measly Rs 2,000 salary a month, these workers have earlier staged nationwide strikes. Read more here.

In Numbers

positivity rate up: The rate of growth of positive cases in stands at 2.8 per cent – the highest among all states. However, testing of samples in the state has not increased in recent days in keeping with this hike in test positivity rate. State officials maintain that the low testing numbers reflected on the bulletin is a result of a ‘software hiccup’. Over the past two weeks, has seen the highest ratio of active cases. A member of the state’s Covid task force, however, says that low testing does not mean positive cases are being missed as this would have been reflected on the active case numbers immediately. The local chapter of IMA however contradicts this claim. Their officials say the state is now testing only those who are symptomatic and vulnerable. They have demanded the state government to increase its daily testing numbers. Read more here.

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First Published: Sun, October 18 2020. 16:43 IST