Lucknow: The coronavirus spread in many districts of Uttar Pradesh is reportedly improving, but the tourist hotspot, Agra, continues to report a rise in the number of cases. On Tuesday, at least 15 fresh COVID-19 cases surfaced in Taj city, taking the district’s tally to 401, the highest in entire state and 11th in the country.
The seriousness of the situation can be gauged by Agra Mayor Naveen Jain’s letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, warning the district administration that the situation in Agra was dangerous and if not managed properly, the city could become the "Wuhan" of India. Wuhan is the Chinese city that first reported the virus and became the epicenter of the infection.
The letter, dated April 21, requests Adityanath to ‘Save Agra'.
"I am writing this letter with a very sad mind that my Agra is going through a phase of excessive problems. The need is to take bold decision to save Agra, where the situation has become very serious. Hence, with folded hands, I am praying you to please save my Agra, please save it," Jain said in his letter, which reportedly was leaked.
SITUATION ‘OUT OF CONTROL’
Incidentally, earlier this month Prime Minister NarendraModi had lauded the “Agra model” for its “successful cluster containment”of the spread of coronavirus and had appealed to other states to follow it. But, people living in hotspots (containment areas or red zones) areas said that life had become tougher for residents as there were no shops selling groceries, vegetables, fruits or other daily household items.
NamitSisodia, a resident of Jagdishpura area, which was sealed on April 10,told Newsclick over phone that people living in hotspot areas were not getting vegetable, milk or any essential supplies at doorsteps. "People somehow manage to go secretly to a nearby lane, which is not in red zone, and bring whatever they need. But, how long will this continue?" he said.
Agra-based human rights activist,NareshParas,claimed: "The situation is out of control in Agra as normal patients are not being treated since all clinics and private hospitals are shut and if a patient visits a government hospital, s/heis first asked to check for corona. Because of this, many people have died due to hospital negligence.”
Shyam Singh Chahar, farmer leader from Agra, along with social activists Pradeep Sharma and Lakhan Singh Tyagi, who met the District Magistrate (DM) on Tuesday over the situation of the city, told NewsClick: "The district administration is hiding the data of people dying every day. I am pretty sure that more than 10,000 people in Agra will be found positive if tested properly. About 10-20 people die every day, but neither is thehospital giving details and reasons behind the deaths nor is the post- being done."
When asked about doorstep delivery of essential items for people in coronavirus hotspot areas,Chahar alleged that not a single rupee had been spent on food by the government, rather social activists and NGOs were feeding needy. "Had social activistsand NGOs not stepped out of their homes to help the poor, many living in slum areas would have died, he claimed.
Sharad Gupta, a senior pediatrician and former president of Indian Medical Association (IMA) of Agra, told NewsClick: "The administration in Agra is puzzled as they don't have any idea what to do. More than a 100 COVID-19 positive cases are inParas Hospital and instead of turning it into a quarantine centrewith proper check-upfacilities, the district administration has shut the hospital, without sparing a thought about patients, medical staff who were inside the hospital."
He alleged that the hospital's negligence had resulted in the spread of coronavirus to other places.
Pointing out about violation of social distancing,Gupta questioned that when the Prime Minister advocated social distancing, how did the district administration shut Paras Hospital where more than 300 people were stranded?
"Instead of shutting down the hospital, the district administration should have ensured inspection of each person, but they adopted a 'pick and choose' approach, which led to the virus spreading in the district,” he said.
The doctor also alleged that the district administration must have done this as they do not want the number of COVID-19 positive cases to show a rise, as it would create panic among residents. "The district administration should learn from Kerala and how they are following the ICMR and WHO guidelines and are able to control the situation. Here they are not following guidelines. If this Agra model is what the Centre wanted to be implemented across country, imagine what the situation would be," he added.
Meanwhile, a former president of Indian Medical Association of Agra, also accused the administration of transferring positive cases to the neighbouring district of Firozabad to “hide the data”.
Also read: No Food, Water, or Even Soap: Migrant Workers in Quarantine Desperate to Return Home
PLIGHT OF QUARANTINE CENTRES
Meanwhile, lack of basic amenities at quarantine centres in Uttar Pradesh are creating difficulties for people under isolation. A large number of people, who have been quarantined for suspected COVID-19 infections at various shelters in Agra, have reported horrible experiences due to pathetic facilities, including inadequate food and hygiene. A majority of them have reportedly not been tested for COVID-19 yet despite spending more than weeks in these shelters.
Two shocking videos from a quarantine facility in Agra, in Uttar Pradesh, are doing the rounds on social media since April 26 exposing the 'Agra Model' that showed people inside a coronavirus quarantine centre in Agra scrambling for essentials “thrown” at them, such as biscuits and water, after which the UP government has ordered a probe.
Sandeep Arora, president of Agra Tourism and Development Foundation, who has been distributing food and ration kits in the city, told Newsclick: "There is no system here how to operate the quarantine centres because they do not have staff. The government needs to re-imagine its procurement process for public-private partnership (PPP) when it is in dire need, but they are doing everything their own. They want to manage law and order, keep an eye on hotspot areas and want to distribute food. We are preparing food, have enough ration kit but administration not allowing us to distribute."
Also Read: COVID-19: Are Private Hospitals to Blame for Agra’s Spike in Cases?
"When everything was blocked and workers left for their homes, the DM asked me to arrange 500 rooms for quarantine centres. Burt, when they do not have personal protective equipment and masks, what is the use of quarantine shelters?" Arora said, alleging that most of the quarantine centres in Agra do not have basic facilities, such as washroom.
NewsClick also carried a story last week on how a private hospital in Agra was being blamed for the spike in cases.