Mass Testing for Covid-19 in Maharashtra’s Most Backward District

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A doctor wearing a protective gear takes a swab from a woman to test for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dharavi, one of Asia’s largest slums, in Mumbai on April 9, 2020. — AFP

The sudden spurt in Covid-19 cases, following the arrival of new security teams from outside, has forced the administration in Gadchiroli to launch a major campaign to screen thousands of people across the district

Ashok Kumar | Clarion India

MUMBAI – The administration in Gadchiroli, one of the most backward districts in India, has launched a mass testing programme for Covid-19 to ensure that it does not spread across the region.

Gadchiroli, located about 1,000 km from Mumbai, did not have a single Covid-19 case till the first half of May. The district administration too had taken measures to prevent the spread of the disease from other parts of the state.

However, the past few days have seen a spurt in Covid-19 cases, with nearly 500 being reported of late.

“Covid-19 cases have been on the rise over the past few days mainly because of the entry of security forces from other parts of India and also some residents from outside the district,” Ashok Nete, the sole MP from the district told Clarion India on Saturday. “The tests are going on and more than 400 cases have been reported so far.”

According to Deepak Singla, the district collector, many of the men from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF), who came to the district were found infected with Covid-19. Staying closely in bunkers, the disease spread rapidly.

More than 20,000 labourers also entered the district from other parts of Maharashtra and neighbouring states including Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Some of them were infected with Covid and are now being kept in the dozen-plus Covid care centres.

There are two dedicated Covid hospitals in the district, which can handle about 400 patients.

Dr Devrao Holi, the MLA from Gadchiroli, told this correspondent that the arrival of 1,500 security-men has seen the spurt in the number of Covid cases. “We did not have any Covid cases till then, but now there are more than 500 positive cases,” he pointed out.

Interestingly, last month many schools reopened in Gadchiroli, but the authorities were forced to close them a few days later. However, unlike in other parts of Maharashtra, students do not have the means to access online education.

Consequently, many teachers go to the villages and conduct informal programmes for study groups comprising about 25 to 30 students.

 

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