COVID-19 crisis: How Delhi model, if implemented well, can help curb pandemic’s spread in rural areas

While the corona situation has improved significantly in Delhi, people across cities and states in India have hailed the Delhi model for the improvement. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has credited the success of the Delhi model to the unity and collective action of the people of Delhi. Reiterating this on the occasion of Independence Day recently, he has appealed to people across the country to donate oximeters to the Aam Aadmi Party for distribution in various villages across India.

Testing, tracing and treating are the three key directives of the Delhi model of fighting COVID-19. While much has been said about their role in controlling the situation of COVID-19 in Delhi, there is a clear need to emulate the model in the remote villages of the country and places where healthcare is still considered a luxury rather than an amenity.

This has been evident from several cases which have been reported in the last few months in the villages of states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, where on one hand, people did not find ambulances to take their family members to a hospital, and on the other hand, they were refused treatment because of the battering health infrastructure and non-availability of doctors in villages.

In the months of March and April, while many labourers and workers migrated from cities to their villages, the idea of rural areas becoming the COVID hotspots became apparent. The remoteness and isolation of these villages turned into a curse within no time. The rural part of India that houses nearly 70 percent of the country’s population became the worst affected region.

Today, the worst affected rural districts and villages are in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal and Gujarat. A multi-pronged approach by the state and the Central governments is needed to reverse the impact of corona in villages.

As compared to other states, Delhi has been faring well in COVID management and the statistics are working in favour of the state government. The active cases have gone down to nearly 10,000 and stand at 7.1 percent, recoveries have climbed up to around 1,200-1,300 daily and stand at 90.15 percent, and 4,500 patients in the city require hospitalisation.

The aggressive testing, home isolation, plasma therapy, increasing the capacity of beds in the hospitals and putting out information about every measure and real picture of the Delhi government are the key elements of its model.

Easier said than done, drawing a parallel between a city like Delhi and various villages in India in terms of COVID-19 control can prove to be effective. The COVID-19 statistics have gone down in a city with a human population of two crore. Around 69,000 per million tests have been conducted and the results of the first sero-survey held in June show that around 24 percent or a quarter of Delhi’s population has developed antibodies against corona.

Villages, on the other hand, can have as low a population as 500-1,000 people. Increased testing and sero-survey like Delhi can decrease the risk of infections in rural areas. Enough testing infrastructure can be developed to conduct tests on maximum people to decrease the risk of spreading of Corona. With sero-surveys, the detection of herd immunity in villages will become much easier, which should be the main aim of the authorities during this pandemic.

The villages in India act as autonomous entities that have long been known to preserve their stance on self-governance through panchayats. In Delhi, the state government had appointed Chief Minister Fellows in various hospitals to overlook the functioning of the hospitals and for better provision of facilities to the patients. Similarly, members of the panchayats should elect at least one representative from their villages to take measures such as providing oximeters to the people and setting up oxygen testing centres.

The local healthcare system in villages has failed to handle the intensity of COVID-19 with villagers left to fend for themselves in the toughest of situations. Unfortunately, maximum casualties in villages are reported until the time they reach COVID-19 facilities or hospitals. The provision of oximeters in villages is a step towards minimising deaths. Correspondingly, the setting up of Oxygen Testing Centres in villages will immunize the people from deaths due to lowering oxygen levels.

Lastly, considering the inability of the health infrastructure to handle a surge in Corona cases in the villages, practising home isolation should be considered a crucial step. This will further reduce the burden on the fewer good hospitals in the area or nearby urban areas.

There is a need for advancements on the part of the governments to strengthen the convergence between healthcare and the people during corona. The implementation of the Delhi model might be a right approach towards the same.

The author is a Delhi Assembly Research Fellow, attached to the Department of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of NCT of Delhi.

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