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India Coronavirus Dispatch: How to stop Metros from becoming superspreaders

Fear and mistrust in rural Punjab, Delhi cases hit new high, and What going back to school will be like--news on how the country is coping with the pandemic

Coronavirus | Coronavirus Tests | Lockdown

Shreegireesh Jalihal  |  New Delhi 

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Fear and mistrust in rural Punjab: Villages in Punjab have issued resolutions, signed by the local Sarpanch, that Covid tests will only be performed voluntarily and nobody will taken to quarantine centres agains their will. These orders were issued after high levels of panic and misinformation among villagers. Some of them have alleged that non-Covid patients have been forcefully quarantined along with infected ones while others point towards rumours of illegal organ harvesting in hospitals. The level of mistrust is so high that medical teams have been attacked and not allowed entry into some regions. Their fears have been validated by tragedies reported by a few who lost their family members after they were admitted to hospitals even after testing negative for the virus. Further, locals allege that families were kept in the dark regarding the status of the patients’ health. Several villages have now passed resolutions Covid-19 testing and treatment at government facilities. Read more here

Delhi’s new high: On Wednesday, Delhi reported over 4,000 new Covid-19 cases. It also became the second Indian city to breach the 200,000-mark after Pune. The spike in Delhi was predictable as the national capital had ramped up its testing. On Wednesday, over 54,000 samples were tested in the city. The last time the national capital reporter 4,000 cases, on June 23, it was testing between 14,000 and 18,000 samples. As RT-PCR test results come out after a few days, it’s expected that the number of confirmed cases in Delhi will rise as high testing levels are sustained. Another major difference between the previous high and this one is that the number of deaths has dropped significantly. Single-day death count in the first week of July was at 80. However, for the last weeks, Delhi has been reporting between 10 and 20 deaths daily. Read more here

What going back to school will be like: The blueprint for reopening some schools is ready. They will now feature classes of shorter duration, limited number of students and compulsory wearing of masks and gloves. Schools have also decided to make it mandatory for students to not use public transport. Parents’ consent will also be necessary for students to be able to attend school again. The classes meanwhile will feature a blend of webcams, speakers and mics apart from the traditional modes of teaching. Further, to ensure social distancing at all times only 50 per cent of the teaching and non-teaching staff will be called in. Seating arrangements for students will also be accordingly adjusted. Sharing utilities like notebooks among students will also likely be prohibited. Some school officials, however, are completely opposed to the idea of reopening schools in September and have stayed away from chalking up any plans, either. Read more here

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Rajkot crematoriums: In Gujarat’s Rajkot, bodies of Covid-19 victims are piling up. The district has emerged as a hotspot has been reporting over 100 fresh cases daily over the past week. The city, meanwhile, has only four crematoria where last rites are performed by hospital authorities. Officials working at a state-run hospital say their job of handling bodies has grown at least three-fold since July. Furnace operators say they’re now operating furnaces round-the-clock to catch up with fresh deaths. The crematoriums have electric and gas furnaces but only the former are currently functioning, adding to their woes. Relatives of Covid patients, meanwhile, wait for long hours into the night waiting for their turn to catch a glimpse. Read more here

Covid fees: Private schools in Karnataka are planning to hike maintenance fees for students. This additional amount, they say, will be for the sanitising exercises undertaken by school managements. This comes after the announced that partial reopening of schools on a voluntary basis will be allowed from September 21. Measures mandated under the SOP include regular disinfection of contact surfaces on school premises and teaching tools like laptops. School authorities say the new measures would lead to a big hike in their housekeeping budgets. Many private schools are already reeling under the effects of a slowdown as staff have had to take salary cuts and in some instances, job cuts. Besides making housekeeping staff work longer hours for undertaking necessary Covid-19 precautionary measures, schools will also have to set up infrastructure such as thermal scanners. Read more here


How to ride the metro: Metro services have resumed nationwide since September 7. However, cases continue to increase. It is therefore important to undertake great caution in running the metro. The main concern in a metro is that of aerosol transmission. Some studies have shown that aerosol transmission can occur at up to 15 feet distance apart. These aerosols can subsequently enter the air-conditioning systems and be recirculated inside the metro. Superspreader events mostly occur in such indoor, crowded and poorly ventilated settings. The columnists suggest installing light emitting diodes that can warn people of possible aerosol transmission besides ensuring 12 air changes per hour. Further, commuters must be required to wear a face mask at all times and not talk during the journey as talking can lead to aerosol transmission. If possible, every fifth window on a metro train must be kept open with a mesh. Doors must open at every station for longer durations, as well. Read more here

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First Published: Thu, September 10 2020. 14:58 IST