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UP’s ‘Agra model’ under scanner as Covid cases rise, govt says it’s due to increased testing

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A family wearing masks outside Agra district hospital (representational image) | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
A family wearing masks outside Agra district hospital (representational image) | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint


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Lucknow: Until just a few days ago, Uttar Pradesh’s Agra was being mentioned alongside Rajasthan’s Bhilwara as having developed a model strategy to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Union health ministry spokesperson Lav Agarwal too had praised Yogi Adityanath’s government for the strategy on 11 April. But since then, the Agra model has come under the scanner for its effectiveness, as the number of Covid-19 cases has continuously risen.

As on 21 April, 295 cases have been reported from Agra, the highest among the districts of UP, up from 103 on 11 April, even though the administration has increased the number of ‘hotspot’ zones and tracing contacts of those afflicted. Saturday, 18 April, saw 55 cases reported in the district — the highest single-day figure for any UP district.

Figures released by Agra district administration Tuesday state that the number of active cases is 257, while six people have died and 32 have been discharged. The administration has tested over 4,000 samples, with the testing numbers too showing a rapid increase in the last week, as pointed out by District Magistrate Prabhu N. Singh in a tweet.

UP’s top health official Dr Rukum Kesh, the Director General of Medical and Health Services, told ThePrint that while the increase in the number of cases is “indeed a matter of grave concern”, the testing rate has also increased. “More than 60 hotspots have been earmarked and they are being sealed and sanitised,” he said.

Dr D. Himanshu of Lucknow’s King George Medical University agreed. “If the testing rate increases, positive cases will also increase for some days. It isn’t something to worry too much about. The numbers will fall once testing gets completed,” he said.

ThePrint also reached Agra’s chief medical officer and the DM to ask why the number of patients was rising, but their office staff said they were not ready to talk in this regard. This report will be updated when they respond.


Also read: Rs 3,000 crore and 4 lakh jobs, the price Agra tourism is paying for coronavirus


Cluster of cases and the ‘Agra model’

According to some media reports, Agra was the first place in India where a cluster of coronavirus cases was detected — there were six patients, all linked to a man who was Delhi’s first reported case.

The six cases were reported on 3 March — two sons of a shoe trader returned from Italy and passed the infection on to five persons, including three family members. Meanwhile, an NRI returning from the Netherlands had passed it on to his 76-year-old grandmother, who later died of a heart attack while undergoing treatment at the Sarojini Naidu Medical College.

The parents of this NRI were also identified as Covid-19-positive.

Soon after the first cluster of cases was detected, the administration formed 259 teams of two members each, who scouted over 1.6 lakh houses and collected around 1,000 samples. Each team visited around 100 houses a day, and doctors were available at nearby dispensaries to provide consultation to those who showed symptoms.

Then, the district administration worked on identifying epicentres, mapped the impact of the confirmed cases, and traced their contacts. This plan seemed to work for a few days, earning praise, but later on, the situation started worsening again.

Tablighi Jamaat, and hospitals turn hotspots

After the Tablighi Jamaat incident in Delhi’s Nizamuddin came to light, the administration carried out a search operation in Agra’s mosques to identify people who had attended the congregation, and found 28 of them. Several persons who had come in contact with them were also examined, and some of them were already found infected with the novel coronavirus.

Dr Kesh, the UP health services DG, said the Tablighi Jamaat event was a contributing factor behind the rapid rise in the number of cases. “All the people who came in contact with them are turning out to be positive. The administration is searching for each one of them, and they are being quarantined. We hope the situation will be back to normal soon,” he said.

Another big worry for the administration is that three of the district’s 62 hospitals — Mittal Nursing Home, Lady Loyal Hospital and Paras Hospital — are now completely sealed as many Covid-19 patients had come in contact with their staff.

Until now, 28 positive cases have been linked to Paras Hospital alone, and the district administration has registered an FIR against its director, Dr Arinjoy Jain, and manager S.P. Yadav, for concealing vital information.

The key case discovered at the hospital was of an old woman admitted for the treatment of asthma, who later turned out to be coronavirus-positive. All the medical staff who came in contact with the woman have been asked by the administration to quarantine themselves.

The hospital was then accused of providing inaccurate data related to patients and staff — it had reported a total number of 73, but when the administration ordered an evacuation, it was found to have 220 patients and staff, of which 28 were Covid-19-positive.


Also read: Far from home, migrant workers in Agra look for food, shelter and the road ahead


Opposition raises questions

However, the increase in cases has led to a political slugfest, with opposition parties saying the government’s claims are false.

UP Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu said: “In the name of ‘Agra model’, the entire focus is on branding, but the ground reality is quite different. Even medical staff members are falling prey to this virus.

“Amid this epidemic, when health workers mean everything to us, their lives are being compromised. The number of tests is also too low, even though testing is the most important aspect,” Lallu said.

Senior Samajwadi Party leader Juhi Singh also questioned the ‘Agra model’, saying since this nomenclature was adopted, positive cases have only increased instead of falling. “What kind of model is this?” she asked.

But Manoj Mishra, spokesperson for the ruling BJP in UP, said the opposition should understand that this is not the right time for politics. “Coronavirus is a pandemic; it’s not a political issue. The central and state governments are trying their best in every way,” Mishra said.

“Our CM, ministers, officials and corona warriors are working tirelessly to fight against this pandemic. Because of their efforts, cases are not increasing here as much as in other countries,” he said.


Also read: Overcrowded Agra jail releases 71 inmates accused of theft, robbery amid coronavirus scare


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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