The second wave of deadly coronavirus has already begun in the Valley and everyday there is a rise in the cases. On March 27, the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir witnessed 271 fresh covid-19 infections, the highest so far this year. Seventy-five of the fresh cases were reported from Jammu region and one hundred and ninety-six from Kashmir division. Amid the ongoing vaccination drive, there is a continuous surge in numbers. Precious Kashmir correspondent Zehra Shafi speaks to Manjeet Kumar, a health educator, presently working with Jammu and Kashmir’s Health and Medical Education department (H&ME), and discusses with him about this “real threat” that has already consumed so many lives. The 33-year-old from J&K’s Doda district has been working tirelessly and against all odds during this pandemic to serve the suspected patients even before they get treated by the doctors.
Q. Tell me something about your daily routine?
A. Everyday, I reach office by 10 am. I am posted at the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC)’s covid sample collection centre. Once I enter the premises, I put on my personal protective equipment (PPE) kit, wear a mask, gloves and sometimes a face shield too. I take samples all day. Once I am done, I take off the PPE kit, sanitize my hands properly because I can’t take the risk of carrying virus to my home. When I reach my rented accommodation at Indira Nagar, the first thing I do is I remove my clothes, put them in a bucket for washing and then have a bath to clean myself properly. There is a greater risk of contracting the virus but taking preventive measures helps me stay safe.
Q. How long have you been working in Srinagar?
A. I have been here since 2019. Earlier, I was posted at Ompora, Budgam. Being a Health Educator, my job there was to sensitise people about personal hygiene and immunisation processes. But after the outbreak of covid-19, I got shifted to TRC and after a brief training period, I started working on war footing and taking samples of people. Currently, we are a team of 18 members, including four doctors, paramedics and sampling staff.
Q. How many people visit the covid centre every day?
A. Around 150 to 200 people visit every day for sampling. While the covid-19 rapid antigen test report is given instantly, it takes two to three days for RT PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test report to come.
Q. Which age group visits the centre most?
A. People of all age groups visit the centre. Some have symptoms, some are asymptomatic and some have travel history. But mostly, older people visit because they have a higher risk of contracting the virus.
Q. What measures is the department taking to ensure the safety of employees?
A. Department is taking all the necessary steps for the safety of health care employees. According to standard operating procedure (SOPs) recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), PPE kits, wearing masks, gloves, face shields and sanitisers have become a mandatory thing for everyone. We wear these on a daily basis and proper sanitization is done before and after sampling.
Q. What are your top priorities in the next few months since the second wave has already started?
A. As you know the second wave of covid has already started, the government is taking several steps to control this. One of them is TTT i.e. testing, tracking and treatment. Testing these days is going at a very high speed and in the coming days, you will see it increasing. Whether anyone has symptoms or travel history, he or she has to go through a sampling process. Secondly, if a person is found covid positive, his or her family members will also be tested.
Q. What are the biggest challenges right now in regard to COVID-19?
A. The biggest challenge I think is to motivate people to wear masks and use sanitisers. These things are for our own safety. People are not taking it seriously. As u know, the whole world is going through this dark phase of covid and we should take lessons from what happened in countries like Spain, China, America, Russia, and many others. I appeal to the district administration to make strong decisions regarding this because I see nobody wearing masks.
Q. Did COVID-19 change how you foresee your career?
A. I think pandemic has shown me a way of how to go through the hard phases in life. It has made me stronger to take on any challenges in the future. I know I am a health care employee and I have to serve people. It is my duty and I feel lucky to be a part of this drive.
Q. What lessons have you learned during the pandemic?
A. Wearing a mask, sanitising hands frequently and unnecessarily going out is something I always keep in mind. For me, it is a new challenge everyday and I accept it readily.
Q. What was the worst thing you experienced during this covid time?
A. Thankfully, I don’t have any worst experiences. It is a bad phase and it will pass soon. “Raat chahey kitni he lambi kyu na ho, akhir mei savera hota hi hai.”
Covid vaccine has also come. The disease will become history after sometime but for now, we should not take it so casually. I pray to God to end this trouble of ours soon and bless us with a happy and healthy life.