Photo for representation
On March 13, when the first COVID-19 positive case of an Indonesian Islamic preacher was detected in Karimnagar, Konduru sensed that he had an extraordinary challenge on his hands. Part of a 16-member group from Indonesia, the preacher had attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi. His testing positive was the first signal that the markaz was emerging as a super-spreader in the country.
In less than a week, on March 23, the first local transmission, a primary contact of the Indonesian group, emerged. Konduru initiated contact-tracing through the IDSP (Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme) and police teams identified the area and the routes the carriers took. The movement was restricted in the area they had stayed in, a mosque in Karimnagar. Konduru earmarked the epicentre and buffer zones and initiated rapid health surveys as well as special sanitation drives.
A door-to-door search of 13,428 households was done in Karimnagar city. Some 70 people were identified as possible carriers and though all but one tested negative, they were kept under quarantine. Konduru reached out to community elders to gain their confidence and encourage voluntary compliance.
Meanwhile, the Karimnagar district hospital (DH) arranged a 200-bed Covid ward, including a 25-bed ICU facility and six ventilators. While the DH facility was ready by mid-March, Konduru roped in the two private medical colleges in Karimnagar, Chalmeda and Prathima, where 500 beds and 100 ICU beds respectively were earmarked for COVID-19 patients if and when needed.
Creating systems, ensuring accountability and a focused approach being Konduru’s watchwords, it meant undertaking several tasks. Among them were strategising the district’s approach and procedural aspects as events unfolded each day; ensuring teams of different departments were protected and at the same time motivated, and ensuring the best care possible for those infected.
“In a pandemic-like situation, the challenge is to gain the confidence of the community,” admits Shashanka. “Continuous dialogue and communication has helped in this. A systematic approach and compliance with protocols irrespective of an area or a person has enabled us to gain the confidence of everyone.” Karimnagar is no communal tinderbox but there was the risk of a sharp divide escalating, but that is in the past now. Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao had announced that he would visit Karimnagar, his former Lok Sabha constituency which now has a BJP MP, but later abandoned the plan.