As resistance gives way to cooperation in rural Punjab, over 51 lakh households screened

This cooperation at the village level is perhaps the reason that health teams have covered a population of 1.95 crore in rural areas by visiting 51.6 lakh households till Friday.

With second wave hitting the rural belt in Punjab hard, the resistance faced in villages by health teams during the first wave last year has melted away. Health Department teams visiting rural household for Covid screening in the second wave say that villagers are now more forthcoming in sharing symptoms and seeking help.

They added that village sarpanches are now themselves requesting for sampling drives and vaccination camps.

This cooperation at the village level is perhaps the reason that health teams have covered a population of 1.95 crore in rural areas by visiting 51.6 lakh households till Friday. The door-to-door Covid survey in rural Punjab was started on May 21 under mission Fateh 2.0.

Pawandeep Singh Bheetiwala, the sarpanch of Bheetiwala village in Muktsar district, said, “When health teams came to our village, I did not find any resistance from anyone to share information. Many villagers were having fever, cough etc., and they readily shared information. Now they are aware that if infection is not contained in the beginning then it can be fatal as three deaths have happened in our village. For a change, now villagers don’t visit anyone’s bhog, cremation even if it is a natural death. I myself saw two deaths in a span of 20 days among my close relatives.”

Madhu Bala, a community health officer from village Koyal Khera, district Fazilka, said, “At times villagers are reluctant in giving samples, but then then village sarpanch, panchayat members, anganwadi workers etc. counsel them. Last year, teams used to face lot of resistance but now patients are coming in health and wellness centres on their own.”

Not only this, even at the 3-day pakka dharna in Patiala being organised by BKU (Ugrahan), farmer unions themselves are demanding free Covid testing, vaccination. This dharna will conclude on Sunday evening. Meanwhile till Friday, a total of 1,37,281 persons had been tested of rapid antigen tests (RAT) in rural Punjab, out of which 4,654 tested positive.

According to the data of Punjab’s Health Department, more than of 90,000 symptomatic individuals were found out of the total population screened, and 4,654 tested positive through RAT. As on Saturday, 523 were referred to Level 2, Level 3 hospitals and more than 9,500 patients were advised home isolation.

At the same time, health teams’ survey also indicated that though only 4,654 tested positive through RAT, but based on the symptoms of the patients, more than 6,500 patients’ samples had also been sent for RT-PCR testing.

Dr Areet Kaur, Director, National Health Mission (NHM) in Punjab, said, “As part of Mission Fateh 2.0, rural teams have tested (RAT) 1,37,280 persons so far and 4,654 have tested positive out of them. But those who tested negative but still showed symptoms have been told to test after 5 days if symptoms persist. In addition to this, a total of 258 pregnant women have also been identified as Covid positive and they are being monitored so that their safe deliveries happen.”

There are a total of 2,380 health and wellness centres (HWCs) in Punjab and at each HWC, one community health officer, two multipurpose health workers and 5 accredited social health activists (ASHA) are stationed.

But the door-to-door survey, which deputy commissioners are getting done at village level, the field team which goes in villages comprises of government teachers, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) members , anganwadi workers, ASHAs and youth volunteers.

At times even patwari of the area also visits villages to get the door-to-door survey started.

“In first wave, a lot of resistance was seen from villagers in getting themselves tested and they used to even turn the teams away from villages. Now, they have started sharing information with the teams readily. In many villages, containment zones are also being made,” said Paramjeet Singh, sarpanch of village Nangal Kalan in Mansa district.
He added,”Our village also remained as a containment zone in the past, now we do realise that Covid needs to be cured and we should not take it lightly.”

Another change as compared to the first wave is that now villages are not encouraging big gatherings like social functions and even protests.

The recent black day protest had seen small gatherings in villages. Further, in the rural belt, many mandis of Fazilka, Abohar, Bathinda etc areas are lying closed where shopkeepers have imposed a self lockdown till May 31.
These mandis cater to 20-25 villages at each location.

“Jaan hai taan jahan hai…precautions are a must. We can’t overlook the symptoms, deaths happening around us,” said Omparkash, a farmer of Sappanwali village of district Fazilka.

Pawandeep Singh, who is president of the sarpanch union of 57 villages of Lambi constituency in Muktsar district, said, “A number of patients in home isolation don’t even know how to use oxymeter, steamer etc. on their own.

Villagers earlier used to hide information, but now they call me and even other sarpanches seeking details and a few also shift to Level 1 isolation centres on their own. They understand the threat now.”

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