Biplab Saha’s life as a school teacher in Tripura has undergone a sea change since he first came to terms with online teaching following closure of schools due to a nationwide lockdown, clamped to contain Covid-19 pandemic last year. It changed further this year, when deployed as a Covid warrior at Tripura’s first Covid war room in Sepahijala district, he realised his words of encouragement and prompt service had the power to save lives of Covid-19 patients under home isolation.
“I usually ask about the well-being of Covid-19 patients in home isolation from the Covid war room. We think it is a social service we are doing in the pandemic,” Saha said and added, “We call a patient at least five times within a gap of half-an-hour or an hour if they don’t pick up calls. We want to ensure not a single patient goes unattended.”
Saha is a social science teacher at Rangapania English Medium High School in Sepahijala district. He says he realises that his work at the war room is even more important than spending time with his 16 months’ old twins at home. “My wife gives me full support to do my work. I, too, maintain hygiene at home to ensure we are all protected from the disease,” Saha said.
Many other teachers like Saha feel satisfied serving Covid-19 patients when they could have instead stayed within the comfort of their homes. So far, over 1,200 teachers from the state have been roped-in for different Covid-19 related duties.
Dr. Mizanur Rehman, who also teaches political science at KK Nagar Higher Secondary School in Sepahijala district, feels the pandemic gave him the opportunity to serve humanity. “In this situation, we got a chance to help these patients in their hour of emergency. Besides medical problems, we even attend to many social problems they face during these times,” said Dr. Rehman, who has been assigned the job to address any problems faced by Covid patients during home isolation through intervention by administration, hospitals or any other social organisations.
He recalled how his intervention helped rush a Covid patient– who suddenly complained of breathlessness late at night– to a hospital in time, perhaps saving his life.
“Many patients call me even after my duty hours. I never get tired of listening to their issues. I, myself, got to learn many things in this period,” said Rehman.
On May 9, the Covid War Room (CWR) at Sepahijala district was the first such facility to be set up with 37 school teachers on deputation. It provides the much needed 24×7 monitoring and support mechanism apart from regular healthcare involving screening, testing and treatment at Covid treatment facilities, said Sepahijala district magistrate Vishwasree B.
Later, two other Covid war rooms led by district education officers were started in the West district on May 11 and in Dhalai district on May 17. 54 teachers were deputed in the West district war room and another 30 in the Dhalai district.
They are divided into teams tasked with tracking all incoming passengers in the districts, monitoring home isolation patients and addressing grievances, if any. They notify administration, ambulances, doctors, ration and medical shops based on the patients’ needs.
“Currently, we have three Covid war rooms that coordinate with Covid control rooms in all the eight districts. We are introducing more Covid war rooms in the remaining five districts at the earliest. Besides, a total of 227 teachers are involved in Covid control rooms and another 1,195 are engaged in Covid-19 vaccination centres,” said education minister Ratan Lal Nath.
Forty eight years old Haradhan Saha lost his social activist wife last December and now lives with his only son. A government teacher since September 1996, Saha has been consumed by the service he is doing.
“I came to know many unknown facts about Covid-19 after I joined the Covid war room since I even had to counsel some nervous patients besides inquiring about their well-being,” Saha, a science teacher in Naogaon High School in West district, says. He monitors 100 patients daily.
Saha says he has now a list of social organisations who deliver food and medicines to the doorsteps of needy Covid-19 patients. He sometimes delivers food and vegetables to Covid-19 patients himself in his immediate neighbourhood.
A female Covid-19 survivor feels there is a need for more such Covid war rooms to help the patients cope with the many challenges associated with the disease including the emotional ones. “The initiative is very nice. Since the number of patients is on the rise in the state, especially in the West district, I feel more Covid war rooms should come up,” she said, in recognition of the difference made by the 1,200 strong force of Tripura’s school teachers turned Covid warriors.