Recently, when a resident of one flat in an apartment complex in Bengaluru tested positive for COVID-19, the other residents were in for a shock. The civic body declared the floor of the patient's house, the floor below, and two floors above as containment zones. “The logic behind declaring two floors above under the containment zone is still a mystery,” said a member of the residents’ welfare association (RWA).
In cities such as Bengaluru, where the number of positive cases has seen a huge surge, the number of containment zones too has shot up. As on August 18, the city had 37,863 containment zones. And citizens were failing to understand what would be declared a containment zone or a buffer zone.
But as the government has brought out revised guidelines clarifying aspects that were often a bitter bone of contention, communities where there is some sense of organisation say they have streamlined the system along the way to avoid further confusion. Srikanth Narasimhan, from Bangalore Apartments Federation, said that with all the changes and confusion over the guidelines, apartment associations and RWAs had started to evolve their own mechanism. “Right now, by and large people are managing on their own. The spread is also quite significant now. Those who test positive have been asked to quarantine themselves. The stigma from the initial months is also waning. Two months ago, a person who tested positive was being forced to get admitted in a hospital. Now, unless there are serious symptoms, home quarantine is enough and everyone knows that. A sense of community has kicked in,” he said, adding that citizen quarantine squads were also helping. “We are working closely with the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike).”
Zibi Jamal, from Whitefield Rising, also said there was more clarity now. “The government understands what it needs to do better. The pandemic rules are changing every day. But things are being communicated well. Flow of information needed strengthening. We are hearing fewer complaints now on community groups.”
BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad said that earlier, even if there was a single house with a positive case, the civic body would barricade 100 metres on either side. “Now, there is no barricading at all. Other measures such as health screening of people living around and sanitisation will continue. But without the barricading, the people will feel free mentally. Patients should be treated with dignity and not stigmatised. Barricading brings fear. Now we will just put up posters in front of the house,” he said. The move is also expected to significantly bring down the number of barricaded areas.
A senior officer involved in COVID-19 containment in Kalaburagi, which reported India’s first COVID-19 death, said the revised guidelines would be helpful for local administrations. “We have created around 2,000 containment zones in Kalaburagi district so far and half of them are still active. With the increasing cases, we need to discard the containment zone concept and adopt a cluster management approach. The new guidelines are a step towards that direction,” the officer said.