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Solidarity in the time of Covid-19


Solidarity in the time of Covid-19

Vijay Gopichandran

(All names reported in this blog are changed for confidentiality purposes)

“Why haven’t your pasted that sticker outside my door?”, asked an anxious elderly lady to the health worker who visited her to check whether any members in her household had cough, cold or fever.

“The lady was very much worried that we were paying less attention to her house compared to the house which had a sticker outside their door. She thought the ones with the sticker outside their house got better attention.”, narrated Mansoor, one of 26 other frontline health workers whom we met yesterday during our field visit to evaluate the cluster containment activity in the city. The field staff are working in a committed and diligent manner, carrying out their role in control of the Covid-19 illness.

We read articles and newspaper reports about the stigma associated with stickers on people’s doors identifying them as quarantined houses and indelible stamps on the hands of home quarantined individuals. We also read of some reports of violence against individuals with such stamps on their hands. We saw a completely different dimension to this yesterday.

The field work supervisor Manickavel, said, “We first met the president of the resident’s association in this area. All members of this resident’s association are members of a Whats App group. Through this we first communicated to all the households that there is a positive case of Covid in this area. There is no reason to fear. We are doing everything to contain the spread.” The Corporation also ensured that information about what activities will be done was explained to the members through the WhatsApp group both in English and Tamil.

“When I first received the Whats App message that someone in my area has the disease, I was initially very scared. But then I have been seeing how hard the Corporation workers have been cleaning and doing their job and now I feel reassured.”, said one of the residents of the Association.
The senior health official of the Corporation in-charge of the disease containment activities in the area said, “We first identified the case household and defined a containment area of 2500 houses around this house. This is our defined containment zone. We have a team of 26 dedicated health workers who go door to door to all these houses and check if everyone is the houses is well and whether anyone has cough, cold or fever. If anyone does have these symptoms, we identify them and test them.”

The frontline health workers including Manzoor, and Sheela are working on a war footing in the field. Sheela said, “The people are highly cooperative. They are cooperative because everyone is afraid of the disease now and so want to do whatever they can to prevent its spread. When we request them to stay inside, they do. In fact, some of them ask us why we have not put up posters and stickers outside their doors”.

The collective fear that has been induced by the coronavirus has brought a sense of togetherness in the area which we visited yesterday. Early engagement with the community through the resident’s welfare association has helped a lot because of the open channel of communication and a clear plan of action.

“These are very difficult times; we must cooperate with the government in order to protect ourselves. They are risking their lives to help us. This is the least we can do” said a senior gentleman who had come to the street corner medical camp which was set up to check people’s temperature and screen for any illness they had.

One of the many positives that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought out besides the reduction in road traffic accidents, reduction in green house gas emission, etc. is a sense of solidarity and standing up for a common cause among people like the ones in the area we visited yesterday.

Some of the key lessons we learned yesterday were:
1.      Community engagement and transparency are essential for cooperation to public health measures, especially the restrictive ones.
2.      Open communication helps foster a sense of solidarity during such difficult times
3.      In the era of digital information, communication technology, it is very important for public health systems to utilize these to optimize community engagement as seen in the case of this resident’s association Whats App group.

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