Uttar Pradesh leads the way in handling the pandemic
By Lekshmi Parameswaran
November 27, 2020
With a population of more than22 crore, Uttar Pradesh (UP) is the most populous state in India and a state where the Covid-19 pandemic was expected to have an adverse impact. Also, with the state bordering Delhi which saw the cases spiralling out of control despite having better healthcare infrastructure, it was seen as a challenge where it was highly unlikely that the state would emerge successful. But the UP government led by chief minister Yogi Adityanath allayed all the apprehensions with its timely actions and policy measures that have so far proved one of the most effective models in the country to control the spread of Covid-19.
According to data published by covidindia.org, till November third week, UP has recorded over 5.3 lakh cases. When it comes to the district of GautamBuddh Nagar that borders Delhi, till November 17, there were a total of 20,566 registered and during the first 17 days in November, the district has reported 2,727 new positive cases, according to state control room records. The true extent of what UP has achieved is revealed only when this data is juxtaposed with that of Delhi where a single day spike in the first week of November had crossed over 7000 cases and close to 31 lakh migrant workers had returned to UP during the first phase of the lockdown. The data published by the Union Ministry of Health during the start of the pandemic pointed to a grim situation where only 58,000 hospital beds were available for a population of more than 22 crore whereas the neighbouring state of Delhi had 20,000 beds for a population of nearly 2 crore. UP also did not have adequate number of health professionals who could handle an uncontrolled outbreak of the virus.
Yet, despite all the odds, UP managed to mitigate the situation without letting it spiral out of control. It became one of the first states to carry out strict enforcement of the measures laid down by the central government including ensuring that the containment zones were properly demarcated and there was no violation of rules. By May 2020, it became the first state in the country to get 100,000 beds ready to cater to the rise in cases.
When compared to Delhi, what UP did differently was to look at the macro picture and formulate policies accordingly. When the whole country was worried about the influx of the migrant labourers who were returning, the UP government ensured that medical units were sent to villages for door-to-door screening of nearly 4 crore people.After reaching a peak in mid-July, by mid-September the cases were on a decline primarily because the government ensured that every district had adequate testing capacities. Today, UP is among the states that have higher Covid-19 tests per million.
What is commendable is that the government’ efforts to deal with the pandemic were not limited to just increasing the testing facilities and number of hospital beds. It also provided sustained relief measures like ensuring food security for those from the weaker sections, appointed delivery agents to help households get access to essential commodities during the lockdown and putting in place technology-based solutions to make certain that all children had access to education.
According to a report released by the Reserve Bank of India, UP was ranked among the top five states in the country for providing employment under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) during the pandemic. In a commendable move, the state government also did skill mapping of about 20 lakh migrant labourers to help them get jobs. Apart from these measures, the state government signed MoUs with various industries for creation of 11 Lakh jobs within a year.
The UP government also recognised the contributions that civil society can make to bring the situation under control and took their assistance in tracing contacts as well as mobilising resources. The state also had the successful Agra Model to rely on which focussed on cluster containment strategy.
In addition to these measures, the government conducted awareness programs in rural areas to make the villagers aware of the real threat the virus was posing to their health. Special training programmes were organised for frontline workers to help them deal with the surge in cases. Perhaps the biggest success of the strategies devised by the state government was that it was effectively able to deploy the services of Assisted Social Health Activists (ASHA) in making people more aware of the steps that need to be taken to protect themselves and their families and also contributed a significant deal in contact tracing. Going by the data released by the state health ministry, 70,000 health workers were roped in for this. This is also the area where the Delhi government had miserably failed despite having mohalla clinics to aid in this exercise.
Recently, with the national capital recording a third wave of Covid-19 spread, the UP government once again re-evaluated its policy measures to get its healthcare apparatus ready to handle a possible surge. It decided to restrict the maximum number of people at public gatherings to 100 and also announced that it will test all travellers from Delhi for Covid-19 including random testing at the Delhi-Noida border. The government has also announced that there will be fresh demarcation of containment zones and there will be intensive surveillance and sample testing drive in 15 districts in which maximum Covid cases are being reported since 1 November 2020.
The efforts of the UP government were taken cognisance of by the World Health Organisation (WHO) when its Country Representative RodericoOfrinlauded the state government’s strategic response of increasing contact tracing efforts to control the virus spread. The government also reduced the price of testing to just Rs 600 across state medical colleges and nursing homes from Rs 1500. As a result of this, a total of 1.80 crore Covid-19 tests have been conducted in the state as on 24 November 2020.
In a country where many states with much better facilities are grappling to deal with the pandemic and many of the political parties at the helm are using the situation to play divisive politics, the Yogi Adityanath government is silently proving to be a game changer. The UP government is showing the way for the entire country that in times of a pandemic, political parties will have to go beyond the rhetoric and concentrate on policy making and governance.