With the number of Covid-19 cases rising in the national capital—20 new cases were reported on Monday taking the tally to 523—the Delhi government on Monday declared three new containment areas, taking to seven, the total number of such zones in the city. More will likely be declared, a senior official familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
States have some leeway on defining such areas and according to senior officials from the Delhi health department, a containment area is declared when a bunch of cases with unclear history is reported from a locality. This is done to prevent the infection from being transmitted to other parts of the city.
Apart from the Nizamuddin Markaz, four separate containment areas have been declared in Dilshad Garden — all with different focal patients — and one in a slum cluster in New Moti Bagh. Another containment zone was declared in the Tibetan colony in Majnu Ka Tila in March, after a Covid-19 positive patient took a bus from there to Himachal Pradesh. A second senior Delhi government official said on condition of anonymity that the containment period for this area is almost over.
According to officials, the separate focal patients — in one Dilshad Garden case, it is unclear where the patient got the infection from — have raised fresh fears about community transmission taking place. “In hot spots some community spread may be occurring,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, director, AIIMS and a member of the national task force on Covid-19.
A locality in the Sadar Bazaar area is also likely to be declared one after four people from there tested positive for Covid-19, the first official added.
Based on the number of cases, contact tracing history, population density, and type of locality – slums or plotted developments – a geographical area is declared to be containment area by the district magistrates or deputy commissioners, to physically keep people in.
Delhi does not have a norm on how big a containment area has to be; this is decided by the district task forces depending on the information received from the district surveillance officers.
“We cannot have the same guideline throughout Delhi because the geography is very different. If we say a 3 km radius (for instance) it will cover thousands of households. This is not feasible. We let the implementing officer decide how to demarcate the area,” said a senior official from the Delhi government.
Although people providing essential services are allowed to go out from the area, registers are maintained to keep a track of who is going where and they are asked to use masks and sanitisers. And no one is allowed to enter the area.
“Barricades are placed, all entries and exit to the area are sealed off, and police are stationed to ensure that no one gets in or out. Essential services can be delivered to the entry points from where local volunteers can take it in. The volunteers are also tasked with delivering all essentials to the doorsteps of people who have been asked to remain in quarantine,” according to a second official.
ASHA workers and ANMs (Accredited Social Health Activist and Auxilary Nurse Midwife) from the dispensaries attached to the area are asked to carry out door-to-door surveillance in such areas.
“They visit everyone in the neighbourhood and check them for symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, or difficulty breathing. They also take down detailed history of where people have travelled to check for possible exposure and contact with the confirmed cases. In case anyone has symptoms, the healthcare workers immediately report them to the district office and, if necessary, they are taken for testing,” said a third official.
All decisions in a district are taken by a 27-member team headed by the District Magistrate. The team includes officers from the integrated disease surveillance programme, health department, municipal corporation, and Delhi pollution control committee.
The district teams and the officials of the state Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme exchange notes, to share details of contacts of positive cases across districts.
The DMs also coordinate with the police to ensure that people do not move around in containment zones and to bring back people who might have run away from quarantine facilities inside the zones.
“There are multiple WhatsApp groups through which we are coordinating. We check with the health department officials in case some clarity is needed, else we inform them about the status,” said a third senior official.
Once a positive case is reported, the five civic agencies in Delhi carry out the drive in their area. In Nizamuddin and Dilshad Garden, close to 65,000litres and 18,000 litres of disinfectant have been sprayed ever since the cases came to light.
Every police station, including Nizamuddin has access to CCTV cameras in the locality, A C4I(Control, Command, Communication, and Intelligence) Centre at the police headquarters, connects CCTV footage of police cameras across the city.
Station House Officers have to immediately inform the area Sub Divisional Magistrate if there is a possible case of a Covid-19 infection in the area . The SDMs then inform the DM. The DM takes a call and alerts the district Deputy Commissioner of Police to help with enforcement.