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From over 2,000 cases in May to 26 in June, how Varanasi flattened the Covid-19 curve

Publication: Aninews.in
Date: June 22, 2021
URL:      https://aninews.in/news/national/general-news/from-over-2000-cases-in-may-to-26-in-june-how-varanasi-flattened-the-covid-19-curve20210622170606/?s

Varanasi, which continued to record up to 2,000 Covid-19 infections daily as the second wave of Covid-19 swept India in April-May, registered 26 fresh cases on Monday.

As the country reeled under the deadly wave at the onset of summer, the holy city of Varanasi was not spared either. Hospitals swelled up with patients, Ghats witnessed cremation after cremation, and the panic gripped the region.

But Kashi bounced back- increasing hospital beds, stepping up Oxygen supply.

"From the first week of April to April 20, cases increased from 200 to 2,000 per day. Observing the situation, Varanasi quickly began its preparations. The oxygen demand was huge during this wave, along with the rate of hospitalisations. The Varanasi administration quickly moved to increase beds and oxygen supplies," Kaushal Raj Sharma, the District Magistrate of Varanasi, told ANI.

The city arranged oxygen plants from nearby districts, while liquid medical oxygen availability was arranged by Varanasi in other districts as well and closed plants were reopened, Sharma said. Medicine distribution was sped up in both rural and urban areas, benefitting up to 1.80 lakh people in villages alone.

"We had 400 beds in the first week of March and till April 20, we arranged 1,600-1,700 beds and almost 2,500 beds on April 30," he said, adding that the Varanasi administration also created an integrated command and control centre, while resource management activities were also undertaken to procure ventilators, HFNC machines and oxygen concentrators.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while interacting with doctors through video conference last month, lauded the efforts of his parliamentary constituency's frontline healthcare workers and hailed the Integrated COVID Command System in Varanasi, adding that it inspires the world.

He also hailed the initiative of micro containment zones and appreciated the home delivery of medicines in Kashi. He requested the frontline workers to make this campaign as comprehensive as possible in rural areas.

He praised the speed with which the number of oxygen and ICU beds were increased in such a short time in the city.
A lot of people came forward to help the city administration as people ran amock for help while surfing the devastating wave. One of them was Shashi Kumar, an edupreneur who also heads the IT and social media of the BJP Kashi Zone. He gathered a team of volunteers and deployed much-needed efforts to help the needy amid a dilapidated situation.

The 42-year-old is among the several leaders who came forward to assist people in getting medical oxygen cylinders and ICU beds in hospitals, at the peak of the second COVID-19 wave, which ravaged the country and stretched healthcare infrastructure beyond their capacities in handling the rising burden of the highly infectious disease.

In this situation, Shashi distributed critical COVID drugs, masks, sanitisers and ration for those in need. During the second wave, hundreds of people reached out to him on his personal social media handles and the personal number seeking help.

Following PM Modi's victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Shashi was given charge of the cleanliness campaign in Varanasi.

"I joined the BJP in 2012. After PM Modi took over in 2014, I was given the charge of the cleanliness campaign in Kashi," he told ANI.

Before the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly in 2017, Kumar was made the chief of BJP's IT team of Kashi Zone, which spreads across 14 Lok Sabha constituencies including Varanasi, Amethi and Raebareli. Kumar termed this as "a key assignment" of his life.

Kumar's team works primarily in eastern Uttar Pradesh and districts near Varanasi. He said that he had formed his team of volunteers in March in different districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh when the cases began to rise in the country.

Although, at that time, Uttar Pradesh was not recording a high number of cases, he reached out to people by circulating his phone number on different WhatsApp groups and social media.

"After coronavirus cases increased, two to three days before Holi, I formed a group of volunteers.
Although cases are not that high in Uttar Pradesh but they were increasing in Maharashtra, Delhi, and Punjab. I held a meeting with our I-T team volunteers in different districts and told them we may need to come forward to help people," said the 42-year-old BJP leader.

The team comprises mostly volunteers from the team of BJP's IT cell in the Kashi zone.

"We got a requirement of oxygen cylinders in the beginning, later we started getting calls from people looking for ICU beds for their patients. We made oxygen to people. When the oxygen crisis came, cylinders were not available so our top priority was to admit the patient at the hospital," he added.

"There are 7 people in my team in Varanasi and a total of 50. Whenever we received an SOS call about beds, we used to raise it with the CMO to check if a bed is available. We approach hospitals near the location of patients."

Kumar said his team has helped 500 patients in getting the hospital beds so far.

Not only did he help people in getting oxygen cylinders and hospital beds, but the young leader also faciliated in providing medicines for Covid-19 patients. The demands for these medicines increased significantly at the peak of the second wave. He also distributed masks, sanitisers and ration for those in need.

As the daily cases are now receding, Shashi Kumar and his team are still at work and now helping those who are looking for blood and hospitals. However, he said that the number of SOS calls has reduced.

"We distributed ration during the recent lockdown. We also distributed masks and sanitisers. Recently we got to know that people of a village in Azamgarh don't have masks and sanitisers. Then I sent them medical kits, masks, sanitiser and Ayush Kadha kits. We are getting fewer queries nowadays."

Shashi Kumar also highlighted that he distributed around 1,000 food packets every day and ration to needy people during lockdown last year.

"During the Corona period last year, I circulated my number on WhatsApp groups and other social media. During the lockdown, poor people were in desperate need for ration. We distributed almost 1,000 food packets every day and also provided ration to those in need," he said.

Uttar Pradesh has recorded 17,04,476 COVID-19 positive cases and 22,132 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in March last year, as per the State Health Bulletin. The active cases in the state are 4,957.

In the holy city of Varanasi, there are 184 active cases as of Monday, while a total of 968 people have succumbed to the virus till date. (ANI)
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