The unsung heroes of coronavirus control room

They continue to provide help, on foot and by phone, despite people hanging up on them constantly


Sameer Mandhro April 16, 2020
They continue to provide help, on foot and by phone, despite people hanging up on them constantly. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: Having someone hang up on you on the phone is like reaching a dead end – it can beat your morale down to the pits.

But such is not the case with the staff of the district administration control rooms set up to trace suspected coronavirus cases and call up people, informing them about the pandemic and precautionary measures. Even when people on the other end hang up on them repeatedly, they persist to perform their duties with sheer diligence.

They realise the importance of their roles in curbing the spread of the virus and it is for this very reason that those of them deployed in the South district control room haven’t backed down from the tall task of identifying suspected Covid-19 patients in one of the most densely populated areas of the metropolis.

A union committee has been set up, including the district control room staff as members, to visit the houses of suspected cases in Lyari. Their aim is to gather information about the patient’s medical history, health condition and the people that person may have interacted with.

According to South deputy commissioner (DC) Irshad Ahmed Sodhar, the team will be directed to visit virus hotspots in the district.

Besides this difficult task, the 20-member control team is also responsible for monitoring the health of suspected and confirmed coronavirus cases, calling them throughout the day to keep a check on their condition. Though seemingly a trivial task, it is quite challenging.

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“It is not so easy to make a call and ask the patient about his health,” said a control room staff member at the DC’s office. “People [still] do not accept that it [Covid-19] is a disease,” she added.

A senior doctor from the team, who has been working with a polio team, told The Express Tribune that people usually don’t cooperate with her. “This is even when talking to us on the phone is in their favour. We have to guide them on a regular basis,” she said.

But few realise this, as is evident by data that shows that at least 29 suspected patients in the district switched off their mobile phones during the past few weeks.

A person residing in South district, suspected of having contracted the coronavirus, shared with The Express Tribune that the control team was calling him regularly.

“They first ask about my health and then about my family,” he said. “They also try to convince me to properly practice social distancing.” A doctor also prescribed medicines on phone when he once told them he was unwell, he added.

As of now, at least 190 people in South district receive a call by the control room team every day. Among them, those who are in critical condition are shifted to hospitals and the team works round the clock to shift those who cannot be quarantined at their homes to isolation facilities.

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Acknowledging that the team faced major challenges every day, Sodhar said, “These are our heroes who work day and night to look after them [patients] and try to convince them to take care of their loved ones.”

He said that despite the rude attitude of people, the morale of his team was high. “We, however, request people to cooperate with us and follow [lockdown] guidelines,” he added

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