Jaipur: In Ramganj, where over 150 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, residents peek out of their windows to observe doctors and policemen administering swab tests on whoever stops by their testing camps.
Positive patients are easy to spot in this Jaipur locality: They trudge, with a bag in tow, through the empty streets and to a crossroad where an ambulance will take them to one of the city’s isolation wards.
“It’s less of a spectacle. Once they are informed that their cases are positive, they would rather walk to the ambulance than have it pick them up from their door steps. There’s less attention that way,” explained advocate Aabid Rahmani, who has been roped in by the Ramganj authorities to persuade the predominantly Muslim locality to get tested.
A 13-year-old student is among those who tested positive. The only words she managed to tell ThePrint Saturday before breaking into a sob were, “I’m scared”. She was with two other women who tested positive in the neighbourhood – one of whom clutched a copy of the Quran and read it as all three were ushered into an ambulance.
They will spend the next two to three weeks in SMS Medical College – an isolation ward and the only testing facility in the city for Covid-19 – until they are fully recovered.
All hands on deck
Two testing camps have been set up in Ramganj, where approximately 300 tests are carried out daily. Health workers carrying out tests are at the designated spots for at least 12 hours a day – from eight in the morning – and often work over time.
The pervasiveness of Covid-19 no longer frightens them, and what keeps their faith is a sense of duty and, oddly enough, invincibility.
“I’ve been in contact with so many positive patients and I’ve tested negative for it myself. I almost feel like I can’t get it,” said a health worker who didn’t want to be named. But the worker hurriedly added, “I only mean to say that it helps to keep the fear away, and focus on the job. We take every precaution necessary”.
Ashok Chauhan, anti-terrorism squad assistant commissioner of police in Jaipur, told ThePrint, “We are testing most people from this locality. The lockdown has been of great use in minimising social contact, especially in a congested place like this. It should be extended further.”
The testing camps are for residents who wish to be tested of their own free will. Another rapid task force conducts door to door surveys and traces the contacts of positive patients. An all-women ‘Nirbhaya task force’ monitors the streets to make sure no one breaks curfew. Things weren’t always this smooth, however.
“When the first case was found and his contacts were taken into isolation, several people were frightened and thought that if they came out to get tested, they too would be forcefully kept in an isolation facility. We decided to demonstrate with five people, and showed everyone that after getting tested people were allowed to return back home till they got their result,” Rahmani said.
“Slowly people started making their way to the testing booths, and the numbers have really grown.”
A Covid-19 explosion
Rajasthan’s Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Rohit Kumar Singh had earlier said that all of the positive cases in Ramganj could be attributed to a 45-year-old man who returned from Oman on 17 March and hid his travel history until he complained of fever on 24 March.
The next day, 16 of his family members were taken to NIMS Hospital where they were isolated and tested multiple times for the virus. In the little over two weeks they spent in isolation, scores of positive cases came up in the area. Of the 301 positive cases in Jaipur, most originate from Ramganj.
Of the 32 family members, 16 (including his wife and children) came back negative and were released on 11 April.
“They treated us well, and we were given three swab tests in the time that we were there,” said the man’s 61-year-old cousin brother. “But being away from home for 14 days was difficult. And the way we were taken away to the hospital was a bit harrowing.”
A 19-year-old relative of the man said the police and an ambulance suddenly showed up and marched the whole family into a vehicle, “as if we had committed a crime”.
Though the number of cases is on the rise, the man’s family members told ThePrint that neighbours didn’t hold any grudges against them, even if they might keep a watchful eye of what happens on the streets.
As the 13-year-old girl walked towards the ambulance, she crossed the man’s family members, who comforted her. “Everything will be alright. Don’t cry,” the 19-year-old told her, to which she silently replied with a nod.