Unique COVID-19 Response Mechanism Comes Up In Srinagar


KO Photo: Abid Bhat

Srinagar- A unique COVID-19 response mechanism has come up in Srinagar to help people in distress during the prolonged lockdown to fight the pandemic and provide a one-stop solution to matters ranging from real-time tracking of cases to availability of essential commodities.

The Emergency Response and Management Centre (ERMC), which could be the first such mechanism in the country, is a brainchild of Srinagar’s Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary.

It was inaugurated by Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir G C Murmu on Friday evening remotely from Jammu.

“After we detected the first COVID-19 case in Srinagar on March 18 and observed the problems faced by the healthcare staff in keeping a watch, we thought of making use of technology. Discussed it with the Information Technology team and we had an app ready,” the 39-year-old officer told PTI here.

“Similarly, while enforcing lockdown, we were flooded with calls about various needs of people. While a large number were addressed, many still went unnoticed because of the enormous amount of workload.

“Half a dozen helplines for specific sectors were also making the response cumbersome. Therefore, it was decided to have an ERMC where one can get anything to everything from essential services to emergency response, essential commodities to grievance redressal and so on,” he said.

Choudhary, a 2009 batch IAS officer, said after taking over as the Deputy Commissioner his focus was to provide good governance and prompt, efficient and effective service delivery to citizens.

In the changing paradigm post the COVID-19 outbreak, he fine-tuned his skills and made Information and Communications Technology (ICT) a vital tool for enabling service delivery in Srinagar.

“Now, when a COVID-19 patient is admitted, an app will be downloaded on his mobile phone which provides a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the person does not move around during his quarantine period. If there is some movement, an SMS will be generated automatically to the control room prompting the Rapid Response Team (RRT) to take immediate action.

“This is necessary and through this app called ‘JKCoVID’ we will be able to keep a check on isolated patients effectively and ensure that there is no community infection,” he said.

The Srinagar control, room set up by him earlier last month, tracked 889 cases with undeclared or hidden travel histories with the help of “Talaash” app used initially by the administration here. The app also provided a self-reporting option and most of the tracked and quarantine patients were tested positive for COVID-19.

“We had to use whatever resources were available at that time. The time was slipping from our hands,” said the officer, who has won the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration, National Award for Best Electoral conduct from the Election Commission and National Award for e-Governance presented by the Ministry of Personnel and National Award on women empowerment.

Choudhury, who has a Bachelor in Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry and a diploma from The Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy of Dehradun, feels that this may ease extra burden on the medical staff who can concentrate on more serious cases rather than keeping a watch on people in quarantine.

The app will also allow other people to get a quick check-up after answering a few queries which have been designed on the basis of questionnaires devised by medical experts dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On the basis of a score regarding their health obtained through the app, people are categorised according to their scores. People with low or moderate scores are advised accordingly through the app, while those with high scores are contacted by medical teams at the control room and necessary action is taken,” The deputy commissioner said.

Hailing from a remote village in Budhal tehsil of Rajouri in Jammu near the Line of Control (LoC), Choudhary has the distinction of being the first IAS officer from the region.

“As I said earlier, you can get anything to everything which is required by a common person during such a situation. Be it baby food, diapers, vegetables, food grains, medicines, hospitalisation, car breakdown, the call centre would be providing it in a stipulated time,” he said.

This can also be used for lodging a grievance in which a person can call an executive at the call centre and after receiving the details about the caller and the nature of grievance, the same is entered into the system which generates a number along with the estimated time of its redressal.

“If it’s not solved, the grievance escalates to the next officer and finally reaches me, incase both the levels fail,” Choudhary said.

The ERMC will also provide psychological and psychiatric counselling to people where the identification of the caller would be kept a secret.

He said the call centre and the real-time integrated management system has been established by the Srinagar district administration for comprehensive and seamless management of the COVID-19 situation in the district.

Choudhary feels that the mechanism will help in monitoring all the operations of quarantine and isolation centres from district control room, thus enabling the officers to make quick decisions based on real-time data received from these centres.

He said the aim of this initiative is to provide a one-stop solution to matters surrounding the COVID-19 situation in the district.

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