Converting the newly-built 40,000 double bedroom houses meant for weaker sections into isolation wards and roping in corporate hospitals, specialists and retired medical professionals and nursing staff are among the contingency plans being drawn up by the Telangana government as it gears up for the battle against coronavirus.
“In case the community spread happens, we should not be caught off guard. We are preparing for all possible scenarios without spreading panic,” a top official of the state medical and health department said.
At a very short notice, nearly 40,000 double bedroom houses, which are yet to be occupied by the beneficiaries, can be converted into isolation wards where patients can be provided treatment, if necessary. Each house can accommodate two patients.
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“This means nearly 80,000 beds can be made available in case of emergency. It may not be needed eventually but this reflects the level of preparedness of the government,” the official said.
Though only one person has been tested positive for coronavirus in the state so far, the authorities are not leaving anything to chance and have stepped up efforts to meet any kind of exigencies.
Emergency care on standby
The private hospitals have also been asked to admit patients with coronavirus symptoms and provide treatment. They have also been asked to set aside some beds to serve as isolation wards to provide unhindered treatment for patients who test positive for the deadly virus.
“We have launched a massive publicity campaign on educating people that there no need to panic. The government is ready to tackle any situation,” health minister E Rajender said.
A new virology laboratory has been set up at the state-run Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad to take up diagnostic tests for Covid-19. “In case of any sample testing positive, we send it to National Institute of Virology in Pune for confirmation,” an official said.
A core team of 22 pulmonologists has been kept as standby. The government has also roped in corporate hospitals, especially those with experience of dealing with swine flu. Around 3,000 beds have been identified in government hospitals for quarantine and private hospitals have been asked to pitch in, if required.
A round-the-clock, toll-free helpline is in place, as well as a command centre located on the premises of the Directorate of Public Health. “This is to enable people to seek any kind of assistance from experts,” said G Srinivas Rao, Chief Director of Public Health.
Prompt sanitation drive post virus alert
After a 24-year-old software professional tested positive on March 2, following his return from an official trip to Dubai, the state health department carried out a sanitation drive of the Mahindra Hills area where he lives. Mahindra Hills, a quiet, upper middle-class area, is home to retired defence forces personnel as well as those working in the nearby IT corridor.
Hundreds of sanitation and health workers fanned out over the 3-km radius. They went to each house and fumigated and sprayed disinfectants.
The techie had travelled to Bengaluru where he works before arriving at his parents’ place in Hyderabad. Nearly 88 people who came in contact with him at Bengaluru and during his bus journey to Hyderabad had been contacted and screened for the virus.
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After two contacts were suspected to be positive, cleaning was taken up of other public places, including Metro stations and trains. The results of their tests, however, turned out to be negative. His family members too tested negative.
The patient, who has been undergoing treatment at Gandhi Hospital, is recovering fast and could be discharged over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the state government has announced a special ₹100 crore fund to upgrade health infrastructure as part of measures to tackle the coronavirus threat.
Over 41, 000 passengers have been screened at Hyderabad international airport so far in which 19 were found to have suspected coronavirus symptoms and have been kept in isolation ward.
Arrangements are also underway to set up isolation wards in nine district headquarters, the health minister said.
The Centre has allowed tests for determination of the virus to be conducted at three additional labs — Kakatiya Medical College (MGM hospital), Warangal, Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM) and Fever Hospital in Hyderabad.
The three laboratories are in addition to those at Gandhi hospital and Osmania General Hospital, both in Hyderabad.
Meanwhile, Cyberabad Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar has said a coordination committee has been formed with various government agencies and IT firms and industry bodies to formulate a Standard Operating Protocol to be used by the IT companies in case of a surge in coronavirus positive cases.
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From curbing overseas travel to offering a work-from-home option to their employees, the IT companies are going all out to handle the fallout of coronavirus scare.
Along with providing basic hygiene-related measures, Hyderabad-based Software Exporters Association (Hysea) has asked its member companies to avoid non-essential travel by its employees, continuously monitor its employees for any flu-like symptoms and also to offer a work-from-home option.
Apart from providing sanitisers and masks to their employees, many companies are following the travel guidelines issued by different international agencies.
Nearly five lakh people are employed in the IT, ITES and other technology companies in Hyderabad where some of the global software giants have set up their largest campuses outside their American headquarters.