Barricades over seven to eight feet high and built across the road, not even leaving a foot of space on the pavement. These have come up every 50 to 100 feet in what are now being called coronavirus containment zones in Hyderabad. On every barricade, is a banner that reads in red “This is a COVID-19 containment zone. No Entry.”
NDTV took utmost precautions and went into Mallepally, one of the 12 COVID-19 containment zones identified in Hyderabad. Mallepally Mosque is the regional headquarters of the Islamic sect Tablighi Jamaat, and several positive cases have been reported from the area. Many have been put under quarantine. In fact, many called this place the ‘hottest’ among the hotspots.
So what is a containment zone and what does it entail for the people and the administration?
The city municipal commissioner Lokesh Kumar and police commissioner Anjani Kumar were on an inspection of the area to make sure “nothing goes in, nothing comes out” so that the coronavirus can be contained while ensuring that people are not put through hardship.
“What it means is that we pay special attention to sanitizing the entire area. We will watch the people very closely so that any symptoms that are suspect can be immediately notified to the authorities,” the municipal commissioner said.
“There will be some inconvenience no doubt. But there is no other way out. In an area like Malepally, all the barricades are sealed except one single point of entry and exit from where essentials can be sent in,” the city police commissioner told NDTV.
Lokesh Kumar explained that those houses where there was a positive patient or were under house quarantine would be completely sealed and no one would be allowed to come out or go in. “To those houses, under request or requirement, we will supply all essentials like milk and medicine,” he said.
It has been quite a massive task for the administration to plan and execute the containment to ensure that the movement of people and therefore the virus is contained. They are also hoping to get community support for what is an unprecedented measure in the city.
Locals watched from windows, one or two from the other side of the barricade as the team of municipal and police officers inspected the barricades put up, the locations and what areas they would cut off, wondering about the implications.
“CCTV footage is also fixed, especially near the barricade that will have the single point of exit and entry, to monitor and ensure no one scales the barricades and only authorised people pass through,” commissioner Anjani Kumar said.
Though the officials said they had taken the community into confidence and explained that whatever is happening needed to be done, a few people NDTV spoke to, said there were big apprehensions about what this would entail. “Are we being made prisoners? How long will this go on for? How will we get milk or medicine,” they asked.
The officers reassure that essential supplies would be ensured in the area by restocking at least once every day.
“How long this will last, we cannot really say. But it will have to be for as long as it takes. When you compare Hyderabad to say, a Delhi, Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra, we are definitely in a much better position I would say,” Anjani Kumar said.
Pointing to an area map, zonal commissioner Pravinya said some more areas were meant to be covered but that would totally paralyse the movement in the area, including her own office, so they had decided to scale it down a little.
Scale it down still meant all the roads leading to Mallepally and those around the Mallepally mosque were sealed, with no possibility of going across it. “We don’t have provisions for more than a week maximum,” worried an elderly man, sitting at his doorstep, the other side of one of the barricades.
Earmarking 12-15 containment zones would mean 10 per cent of the city’s population and geographical spread, the municipal commissioner explained. If this goes as per plan, more may not be needed.
Hyderabad city has been the worst affected in Telangana with at least 162 COVID-19 positive cases. Initially it was attributed to more number of foreign returnees in Hyderabad and also the air connectivity from here. But subsequently it has been the returnees from Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz meeting that has shot up the numbers. Out of an estimated 1,080 who went from Telangana, 604 were from Hyderabad.
“The police has tracked all primary contacts. The secondary and tertiary contacts, sometimes may go up,” minister Srinivas Yadav told NDTV.