COVID contact tracing teams track 14-day movement of patients through mobile phone call records
By M.T. Yogesh Kumar
Mysore/Mysuru: With COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Karnataka on the rise, the State Government has restructured its strategy to fight the pandemic with enhanced contact tracing, more oxygen beds, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facilities and ventilators. Many Government employees have been deputed to the crucial task of contact tracing and they have been warned of action if they refuse to work. These are Group B, C and D employees from various non-key departments like Tourism, Revenue and Forest Departments who are now reporting to senior officers in the frontline.
According to Health experts, the delay in identifying contacts (both primary and secondary) of positive cases and bringing them under proper care is the prime reason behind the spike in numbers.
In Mysuru too, there are two exclusive teams to trace primary and secondary contacts and they have intensified their search. While one team is headed by Nodal Officer Lokanath (District Urban Development Cell Director) the other team is headed by Karnataka Exhibition Authority CEO Girish. Lokanath’s team has 48 members who are managed by five senior officers. Once a person tests positive, his/her contacts for 12 to 14 days are traced and quarantined.
COVID-positive patients are questioned about their travel history of 14 days and the same is informed to another team that verifies the details by tracking the mobile phone tower location. A five-member ASI-grade officers verify the call records and based on this, one more team goes to the places and traces the primary and secondary contacts. Neighbours are informed and if necessary, they will be asked to undergo COVID tests and to be in home isolation.
The centralised data goes to the District Health Officer (DHO) who reports the same to the Deputy Commissioner.
The other team comprises eight members and this team certifies if the positive person can be kept in home quarantine as per the new guidelines issued by the State Government.
The teams visit individual houses and see the number of family members in the house or if there are elders and children who are vulnerable. In case the positive person has vulnerable people in his/ her house, the same is reported to the DHO and the DC who will take a further call.
Meanwhile, Chief Secretary T.M. Vijay Bhaskar has said that additional human resources were required to strengthen contact tracing, which is “a very important part” of controlling the spread of COVID-19.
“Any disobedience in following this order will attract punishment under Section 56 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and other applicable laws,” he said.
According to an extract of Section 56 mentioned in the order, officials will face imprisonment of up to one year, unless they have obtained “written permission” of a superior official or other lawful excuses to not carry out work assigned to them under the act.