Coronavirus outbreak: How Sangli went from 25 cases to zero in two weeks

Updated: Apr 11, 2020, 08:36 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

After a family of Hajj returnees tested positive, city resorted to strict quarantine and tracing methods to prevent an exponential spread

Supermarket staff screen customers in Sangli. Pic/Uday Deolekar
Supermarket staff screen customers in Sangli. Pic/Uday Deolekar

With a three-point programme to control the Coronavirus pandemic, Sangli district has emerged as Maharashtra's Bhilwara. The district has not reported new cases in the past weeks and 22 of its 25 patients have recovered.

Of the 25, 24 patients belong to the same family in Islampur town, and one case is in Wadgaon village.

The administration, police and medical services swung into action immediately after the patients were traced and identified in two phases. Some members of the family from Islampur had returned from Hajj pilgrimage on March 18 and transmitted the infection to close contacts who roamed freely in the town. Those who tested negative would be further quarantined for a mandatory 14 days.

According to Sangli's guardian minister Jayant Patil, who rushed to Islampur immediately after the cases were reported, a strict action plan was put in place. The plan focused on three important things. "First, we isolated the symptomatic people and sealed the area of their residence with a radius of 1 km. We traced people who were in the first and second chain of contact of the positive patients. We also quarantined these people. Second, we identified spots where mass transmission was possible. We home-quarantined people and checked them for symptoms daily through ASHA workers who were picked carefully from places other than Islampur. Third, we imposed the strictest ever lockdown in the district, especially Islampur town," Patil said, adding that every home was visited by paramedics.

Bhilwara in Rajasthan set an example by enforcing a lockdown much before it was done in the country. The administration and health workers focussed on containing hotspots and sealed them by marking a radius. They also ensured that suspected cases and high-risk contacts were tested. No new positive cases were reported in Bhilwara. Currently, the model is being replicated in hotspots, including Mumbai.

Dr. Pallavi Saple, dean, JJ Hospital at a testing laboratory in Sangli. PIC/Uday Deolekar/BY ARRANGEMENT
Dr. Pallavi Saple, dean, JJ Hospital at a testing laboratory in Sangli. Pic/Uday Deolekar/By arrangement

Patil, who is still camping in the district, said 22 patients treated at Miraj hospital have tested negative for the infection. "Initially, I was under tremendous pressure but now I'm much more relaxed. We discussed everything with stakeholders. I must thank people for following social distancing and making prevention successful so far," he said, adding that 22 patients have reported negative and no other cases have been reported so far.

The water resources minister said that a sensible approach to the lockdown played a major role. "People at home and in institutional quarantine were very cooperative. Yet, I appeal to people in Sangli and rest of Maharashtra to not be complacent. Follow the government's instructions because that alone would save you from the pandemic," he said.

Apart from local measures, institutional too helped contain the spread as the projection for the pandemic had been massive. A special team of doctors from Mumbai's Grant Medical College and Sir JJ Hospital headed by its dean Dr Pallavi Saple, associate professor Dr Vinayak Savardekar and Dr Prashant Howal reached Sangli 10 days ago to suggest measures. The Miraj Government Medical College kept 315 beds ready for patients. A COVID-19 testing laboratory was erected and made operational immediately. A 15-bed ICU equipped with CT scan, MRI, dialysis and sonography machines, liquid oxygen and other things were also prepared.

No. of quarantine beds kept ready at Sangli's Miraj Government Medical College

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