The ‘Malegaon Pattern’, the way in which the textile town fought Covid-19, is being cited as an example by one and many. From April 2020 till July 25, 2020, as many as 10,712 locals were tested out of which 1,204 were found positive and 1042 patients recovered. Though the death count rose from 21 in April to 44 in May, the following month it reduced to 12 and in July, only five deaths have been reported so far. The recovery rate in Malegaon is around 80 per cent.
From one of the most talked-about hotspots in the state to being selected as one of the two centers for plasma collection, Malegaon’s success story proves how the administration, police and local residents played key roles in tackling the deadly disease.
Quiz Suraj Mandhare, collector of Nashik district, about the Malegaon pattern and he says, “It can be summed up in one line — move ahead leaving fear behind.”
“There was a lot of misunderstanding in this area about the entire issue of corona. Citizens weren’t even cooperating in surveys. We also had to face major hurdles in compiling information about patients. Gradually, we decided to seek the help of religious leaders and medical professionals etc who could influence the minds of the locals. We recorded their videos which were disseminated through various platforms. As a result, citizens gradually started co-operating. We changed our way of functioning too. Swabs were taken before Sehri (pre-dawn meal during the month of Ramazan) or after Iftari (when Muslims break fast) as there were doubts about what happens while taking swabs during Roza,” Mandhare stated. An additional X-ray facility was also set up to diagnose the disease. Dr Govind Chaudhary, an epidemiologist, was sent to Malegaon for special study and suggestion of remedies.
He adds that that initially, the number of patients in the powerloom town increased rapidly from 100 to 500 within a short span of time. He states, “This became a matter of concern for the district administration. An Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) was already working at the district level. Another one was immediately set up at Malegaon. EOCs helped other departments so that the information reached the headquarters on time through Telegram messages. “Considering the population and way of life in Malegaon, implementing lockdown was a challenging task. As challenging as it was to provide police cover, it was necessary to provide proper facilities to the citizens and ensure that no inconvenience occurs during the month of Ramadan.”
To tackle the crunch of officers, senior officials were sent to Malegaon under the Disaster Management Act. They included officials from Revenue, Health, Zilla Parishad departments. Pankaj Ashia, IAS, was appointed as the Coordinator while Dr Nikhil Sandane was sent to coordinate the hospital management.
Mandhare also credits revised Patient Discharge policy’ released by the government, as one of the key success factors. “The health facility was overcrowded at one point of time. So, we rigorously followed the new discharge policy of allowing patients to leave without a swab test when they stop showing any symptoms of illness. That way, the burden of testing reduced and we could make way for new patients. A combination of various treatment methods like homoeopathy, Allopathy and Unani were used as per the requirement.
Even though the health system was in place, a parallel system including O2 concentrators was catering to the patients who wanted to get treated at home. It was a calculated risk, but it worked well,” said Mandhare.
“People in Malegaon mostly read local Urdu newspapers which hardly published complex things like CFR, doubling rate, antigen kits, debates on Mask and no mask, vaccine development etc. This kept them away from fear psychosis and also saved them from getting drowned in wrong conclusions,” his message, doing the rounds on social media, read. Following the demands of residents to start the powerloom industries, which comprises the backbone of Malegaon’s economy, the administration gave nod and gradually the city’s life was back on track. Powerloom is the backbone of economy in Malegaon. Soon, all the business establishments became functional and the life returned to normalcy.
“Even today, the recovery rate in Malegaon is around 80 per cent, one of the highest in the country,” adds Mandhare.
As per police records, Malegaon’s population is 7.16 lakh with 518 policemen, posted in nine police stations. Arti Singh, superintendent police, Nashik (Rural), who is also an MBBS doctor, camped in Malegaon for two months to control the situation.
Singh said the district police approached Maulanas to appeal to people to stay indoors. Besides this, local politicians along with cops made announcements to the public from the police vehicle PA system. “Pamphlets in Urdu were prepared by the department to create awareness among the public about the disease,” she added.
Singh, an IPS officer of 2006 batch, said that bandobast was provided outside hospitals and quarantine centers as locals had a tendency of running away from hospitals or picking up altercations with doctors. “Petrol pumps were asked to give only limited fuel to the public to restrict their movement. Establishments where social distancing norms were flouted were booked under the disaster management act,” she said. PA systems and drones with inbuilt loudspeakers were used extensively. During the month of Ramzan, essential commodities like fruits, dry fruits and breads were made available to locals at their doorsteps so that they don’t venture out. Ration, masks and sanitizers were supplied to around 5,000 families during the holy month which generated goodwill for the police.
“As private doctors and Unani doctors opened their clinics, Qabrastan burials reduced drastically. The restarting of power looms not only ensured some income to the people dependent on it but also eased decongestion of living spaces resulting in reduced spread of infection,” observes Singh.
To reduce communal hatred during the pandemic, the police had extensive meetings with local leaders, monitored social media, registered cases and arrested those who indulged in rumour mongering with the aim of spreading communal hatred.
Talking about the Intelligence collection and collation committee, she states that volunteers from the community were hired for contact tracing and cops conducted various surveys. “Apart from this, call data records (CDRs) were studied and relevant data was acted upon for contact tracing,” she adds.
However, one of the biggest challenges for Singh was to tackle the rising number of cases among her own colleagues. As many as 225 constables including those who came from outside Malegaon for bandobast, contracted Covid 19 and three of them died. Most of them have recovered and joined duty. “Our cured constables are now donating plasma in the state’s Project Platina at the government medical college (GMC) in Dhule, 50km from Malegaon,” she mentions.
On their part, the residents of Malegaon stayed calm and did their best they could do to defeat the deadly disease. Over a dozen initial deaths of Covid patients were reported from Jeevan Hospital, a non-operational hospital taken on rent by the Malegaon corporation during the pandemic, which had created much fear among the residents. People started avoiding admission initially in this hospital due to non-availability of medical equipment, proper oxygen line, oxygen cylinder and ward boys. Demand for a better facility mounted. Residents heaved a sigh of relief when Faran Hospital, owned by Dr Saeed Farani, started as a Covid dedicated hospital. Simultaneously, many people preferred treatment at home with consultation of their own doctors. Local youths and groups helped people who needed oxygen cylinders at homes.
Doctors attached to the Unani Medical Graduates Association (UMGA) played one of the most important roles at a time when most of the hospitals had downed their shutters in April. As many as 100 Unani doctors continued their practice. “A general practitioner would examine around a hundred patients per day including those with heart ailments, diabetes, flu and other ailments. This was the time when neither private hospitals nor government-run hospitals admitted patients without Swab testing. In several cases, we isolated patients and provided all the medical facilities that are given in a Covid hospital. Thus, mild and moderate cases were handled at the GP level itself in Malegoan and only severe cases went to Covid hospitals,” observed Dr Farogh Abid, vice chairman UMGA. At least at two places fever OPDs were started where thousands of general patients were examined and given treatment. The recovery rate grew rapidly.
Hundreds of social activists in Malegaon worked day and night to help patients. A special team of youths, Corona Task Force, was formed whose members would be deployed at various Covid hospitals and quarantine facilities. They also shifted patients from one bed to another when there was shortage of ward boys, went and fetched medicines from various places for patients and even installed oxygen cylinders. Jamiat-ul-Ulema, a socio-religious organization, took the responsibility to prepare food for those in some hospitals. This move came after photos of a food packet meant for Covid patients, containing worms, went viral on social media.
Locals also started consuming a special Kadha (extracts of unani herbs), an immunity booster prepared at the Mohammediya Tibbiya College (Mansoora Hospital). While the college authorities have been manufacturing it for the last 35 years, it saw a sudden hike in demand during the pandemic.
Dr Abul Irfan Ansari, ex-principal of the college and now a Professor and HoD (Surgery department) says that the Kadha consists of an ancient formula and claims it was earlier used during ‘Chikungunya’, Swine Flu and several viral fevers. He said during 2019, he started this formula using antiviral, anti-cold, anti-tussive and anti-pyretic as well as immunity booster. Till date around 1.5 lakh packets have been distributed free of cost to police and frontline Covid warriors. People from Nashik, Aurangabad, Nanded, Parbhani, Nagpur, Akola, Mumbai, Bhiwandi etc are placing orders for it. As many as 2.5 lakh Kadha packets are in the wait list.

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