Along with medical professionals, police officers too, are the frontliners who deserve all our appreciation. These forces have been putting their life on the line, on a daily basis just to take care of us and in return, they merely expect us to stay home. So in a conversation with Lucknow J.C.P Naveen Arora, we discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the police department and the city as a whole.
What is the 'then & now' picture of this pandemic?
When the first lockdown was imposed, we noticed that the rules and regulations set by the authorities were being followed religiously by most of the citizens because of course it is a whole new experience. This in turn, helped us to contain the virus and reduce its spread, as compared to the other states and countries where the cases have been soaring. But it all took an unfortunate turn when the migrant labourers started making their way back home which was only natural. They were all left without jobs and definitely, anyone would want to be with their families during such difficult times. Although the government has been doing their best to help them out, the labourers were mostly scared of the concept of 'quarantine' because there was a gap in awareness and some were skipping tests too.
Even if someone had a fever, they'd usually pop a pill to get a clean chit in the face of a thermal scanner. That's how the disease mostly began spreading in the interiors of the state. Then the government had to announce Unlock 1.0 to recover the economic conditions of the country and the citizens here started disregarding the gravity of this pandemic. This bolstered the upsurge in the number of cases. Presently, 250-300 cases are being reported in Lucknow on a daily basis because the 'will have to live with this virus' attitude has taken over people and even home-quarantine guidelines are not being stringently followed.
Has the attitude of people changed?
The awareness regarding the virus has increased by leaps and bounds but the fear amidst people has alarmingly dropped to really low levels, which shouldn't be the case as of now. People are banking on their immunity system to save them from this deadly virus and are taking measures to increase their immunity, rather than taking the necessary precautions. To make it even more understandable for the citizens, we've launched several campaigns and PSAs, so that the people are always informed about the current updates and how to battle this pandemic in effective ways!
How do you classify an area as a containment zone?
Earlier as per the guidelines, if an area was found to have 3 positive cases, it was declared as a containment zone and if a locality had one patient, it was termed as the epicentre. But the regulations have been updated as per the situations at hand and now even if one case is detected, the epicentre will be declared as the hotspot. Accordingly we set the barriers and the different teams involved in the well-being of the citizens, decides the area to be sealed. We set-up our forces in that particular area and restrict all sorts of movements within it except for the essential services.
How long does it take for a place to be sealed?
It surely doesn't happen immediately. First, we conduct tests and take random samples from areas. The test results take a day's time and the CMO sends the positive reports to the collector so that he can declare the area as a hotspot. The collector then approves the reports according to the government rules. After approval, a joint team goes to the specific area and within 24-36 hours, the area gets sealed.
What should the residents do if their locality hasn't been sealed yet?
We have independent and integrated control rooms for complaint redressals of the citizens. We're also available online, if anyone wants to reach out to us digitally. In case we are not able to barricade a certain area, we immediately place two of our officers in that locality for further look-out. Initially when the containment zones were less in the city, we had formed WhatsApp groups for the residents of that particular hotspot zone, which included our officers too. So anyone in need of anything within that area, could just message on that group and their needs would be met. This practise is still prevalent in the nearby townships, with a handful of containment zones.
Could you please tell us about the 'Alert Citizen Award'?
Back when the pandemic was newly introduced to us, surprisingly, there were two citizens who had self-declared their travel and had persistently urged the authorities to conduct a COVID-19 test on them. Even though they didn't have a temperature or any other symptoms, they were tested positive and were termed as asymptomatic cases. These two patients even followed a complete 28-day quarantine routine, to absolutely assure that they were free of the virus. This definitely called for recognition, as till date, many people are still afraid of getting tested and are hiding their health status. So we handed out the Alert Citizen Award to them, as an acknowledgement of their honesty and sense of responsibility towards the community.
How has COVID-19 taken a toll on the police force?
Since many officers are at the front line of this pandemic, there are bound to be cases among us. As of now, there are around 50 officers who are affected by this virus or have been so and are fine right now. In the DGP office, in the anti-corruption team, there has been a death. Even the deputy SP of Hardoi who was admitted in Lucknow, passed away due to this virus. We're usually the first responders in such a scenario and due to this commitment, we had set our safety regulations from the very first day. We've have been using face shields, sanitizers, gloves and even PPE suits when and where required.
We have different standard operating procedures according to areas we're handling. We've also advised the officers to isolate themselves at home, if possible. It is really difficult for us to be assured of safety as we're always attending to the public and engaging with them. To combat this pandemic, we even have a covid special reserve force of 200 cops, who are divided in 4 groups of 50 and are placed in schools and colleges. The task forces placed in isolation areas or hotspots zones, are being rotated constantly every month and are replaced by these reserve forces. The officers are also being given immunity boosting foods and beverages during their 12-hour duty and are being sent for routine check-ups. Our buildings and cars are also sanitized daily! Everyday, we have to put our heads into situational leadership tactics, which also keeps us occupied with constant briefing, debriefing and training sessions.
A message to all our readers
Even during such a grave situation at hand, the authorities are putting their best foot forward to make our lives convenient and in order to keep it that way, do follow the directives as suggested by the medical professionals. Even if you're stepping out for your essentials, do not forget your masks and sanitisers and maintaining a distance is an absolute must!