COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest scare for humanity as of yet and has claimed over two lakh lives and over 1000 lives in India. To curb the menace civic authorities are proactively coming up with effective strategies. Also, initiatives are being taken by the local governments across the country to ensure the guidelines issued by the Centre and the respective State governments are being adhered to and the lockdown norms are being followed. Detailing on the initiatives by the Ghaziabad civic body to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and their functioning in times of crisis, Dinesh Chandra Singh, Municipal Commissioner, Nagar Nigam Ghaziabad joined in a webinar hosted by Dr Ravi Gupta, Founder and CEO, Elets Technomedia.
Initiatives to tackle COVID-19 in Ghaziabad
Singh, addressing the COVID-19 issue, said, “COVID-19 is a worldwide problem and there are specific and clear guidelines that were issued by the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh State Government for fighting the pandemic. And, in Ghaziabad, we are adhering to the respective guidelines.” However, “In Ghaziabad, we have 14 hotspots and there is a fix protocol, as per the State, which allows the entry of medical staff, police personnel and sanitation staff only. We had 27 active cases of which nine cases have been recovered and the reports of a few are awaited. And therefore, saying that we are in a safe zone will not be right”, he added.
Talking on the challenges faced by the corporation, Singh said, “There were various challenges that we faced after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the major issues were of the migrant labourers. To provide them with food, shelter, and other facilities was a challenge but with the help of the dictrict magistrate and police personnel, we provided food to as many as 1.5 lakh people in three days.” Adding on to the assistance provided by the State to the poor and the needy, he said, “As per the Chief Minister (CM), we identified as many as 17,000 street vendors and daily waged workers and transferred Rs1000 to their bank accounts through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT). As of yet, we have transferred the benefit to 14,700 people of the total 17,000 identified. We contacted them through WhatsApp and through direct calls, took their account numbers and sent them the benefits.”
Sanitization was another big challenge the corporation dealt with, said Singh. Though it is the part of our regular job but the level at which it is being carried in this time of crisis posed as a challenge for us and we overcame it successfully, he added. Further detailing on the work carried out by the civic body during the crisis, Singh said, “We identified the hotspots and we sanitised the areas as per the medical guidelines issued to us.” Moreover, he mentioned that the waste from quarantine centres, COVID-19 hospitals, isolation wards, and COVID-19 hotspots was classified as hazardous biowaste and the Ghaziabad civic body with the help from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) are implementing effective strategies to ensure the hazardous biowaste does get mixed with the regular municipal waste. “The corporation is proactively working for the cause and all the preventive measures including masks and PPEs are provided to the sanitation workers and other workers including those working for the cause”, he added.
As an effective preventive measure, the corporation is conducting a door-to-door survey to check if anyone is developing symptoms or are vulnerable to someone infected, he said. Adding on to the corporation’s initiatives, Singh also mentioned, “We also have round the clock operational control room which has been of great help to us during this time of crisis.
Status of healthcare infra and facilities
Singh, answering a question regarding the preparedness of Ghaziabad in terms of medical infra and facilities, said, “We have enough isolation wards in the city. We have dedicated COVID hospitals and we also have arranged beds for quarantine proposes in two to three colleges.” The corporation is ensuring that the preventive measures and PPEs are being provided to the doctors, nurses, other medical staff, and sanitation staff, he added.
Apart from the abovementioned facilities, Singh also said, “We have distributed more than 10,000 cloth masks as they are washable, reusable and hence are not prone to infection easily.” Moreover, the corporation is also providing enough sanitizers and soaps and other such preventive equipment to our workers on the field and in offices to ensure proper prevention of the Coronavirus. We have also been conducting workshops for our workers and staff members sensitizing them about the use of sanitizers, proper handwashing and more, Singh added.
Use of technology during COVID-19 crisis
Turning the discussions towards the use of technology, Singh said, “We have helplines in place running 24×7. We also have CCTV cameras installed which are being used to monitor the movement of people and vehicles during the lockdown phase.
Moreover, he said that all of the staff is well connected through WhatsApp and social media platforms and this has also helped us in spreading awareness in an effective manner. Adding onto the use of technology, he said, “We are using GPS to track all the garbage collection vehicles. We are also using CCTV cameras for monitoring the people littering in the open and public areas. Moreover, surveillance is also taken seriously, especially due to the lockdown.”
Raising the issue of food grains and essential supplies, Singh said, “People need not worry about the supply of vegetables, fruits, groceries and essential commodities. We have nominated the vendors to sell vegetable and fruits in many areas. However, for hotspots, the vendors are prohibited. Therefore, in that case, people are directly calling on the helplines or to the police for the delivery of essential commodities.”
Answering a question on the relaxations norms issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Singh said that as per guidelines, the corporation has to observe the districts till April 20. However, it is a matter of fact that Ghaziabad is s sensitive area and until actual progress and increased rate of recovery of patients are observed thinking about relaxation is not an option. “So I would say that we should strictly follow social distancing and other preventive measures and once there is progress then we should think about relaxations. Right now there is no relaxation from us and a proper lockdown is being followed”, Singh said.
Nagar Nigam’s work in making Ghaziabad Swachh
Speaking on the topic of sanitation and cleanliness, Singh said, “We have worked a lot on sewage management and sanitation like building community toilets and public toilets under the Swachh Survekshan works.” Ghaziabad has also achieved the ODF++ status, he added.
Adding onto the sanitation works and the Swacxhh Survekshan competition, Singh said, “Ghaziabad is a densely populated city and is an old city. Although, Noida is a new city but still we have always been in tough competition with Noida considering Swachhta Abhiyan.”
In his concluding note he said that it will take time for Ghaziabad to be COVID-19-free and for that, compliance of guidelines issued by the government and practising social distancing is a must.