From arranging oxygen concentrators and ventilators, creating dedicated helplines, tying up with hospitals to set up COVID-19 facilities in club houses, and even deputing society officials as representatives of the police to ensure that protocols are adhered to, RWAs across Delhi-NCR and Mumbai have a lot on their plate as they struggle to combat the second wave of the pandemic.
With the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise, especially in highrises, the Uttar Pradesh government had issued guidelines earlier this month that said that in case of emergence of one case, the entire floor will be contained, while the entire tower will be contained if multiple cases are detected. The guidelines have not put any restrictions on movement of people from in and out of containment zones, but has directed for strict surveillance.
The state has also amended the Corona Pandemic Act, 2020 making provisions for imposing hefty fines for not wearing mask in public. According to the new amendments, those found without mask will be fined Rs 1000 the first time. The fine will be Rs 10,000 for second time offenders. Also, people found spitting in public will be fined Rs 500.
With several cities running out of hospital beds, oxygen and essential medicines, several resident welfare associations in Noida and Greater Noida had sought permission from the state government to allow them to set up isolation centres for COVID-19 patients in their club houses.
Purvanchal Royal Park, a housing society located in Noida’s Sector 137, has received permission to set up a five-bed COVID-19 facility in its club house by the Noida Authority. The developer, on his part, has agreed to bear the infrastructure cost that includes the cost of beds, housekeeping, nurses and sanitation exercise. The association has tied up with a local hospital for all these facilities.
“Cases are very high and residents have been struggling for basic facilities. We thought of arranging for basic facilities in our 10,000 sq ft club house so that only serious cases would have to check into hospitals. Hospitals are currently facing infrastructure challenges and we are providing that to them within the society’s premises,” Sudhesh Kumar Jha, secretary, ACME, Purvanchal Royal Park, told Moneycontrol.
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The association has received permission to set up a makeshift five-bed facility for now, he said, adding the hospital will provide nursing staff for patient care, sanitation and waste management services. Residents would not have to pay for infrastructure but only for the medicines. Serious patients would be transferred to the hospital, he said.
The AOA has set up a 10-member taskforce to ensure that all COVID protocols are being followed. Residents have been asked to click pictures of people who have been seen not wearing masks or stepping out if under quarantine. These are then sent to the competent authority as “we do not have the power to penalize anyone,” he said.
As for protocols for COVID patients, the association has deputed one security resource from the common facilities which are currently non-functional, to look into the daily needs of such people. In case a patient has to step out of the building for medical tests, he has to first inform the tower guard following which the entire floor where the person’s apartment is located, the lift, the reception area and the first floor are sanitized. The same exercise is repeated on the patient’s return.
For waste segregation, COVID-19 patients are provided yellow bags which is then collected in separate red garbage boxes.
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Nirala Eden Park in Ghaziabad has also set up an isolation centre with four makeshift beds within the club premises. “Those people residing in 1BHK and 2BHK with large families have used this facility to isolate themselves,” said Girrish Lalwani, secretary, Nirala, Ghaziabad, adding the RWA is bearing the expenses.
Rajiva Singh, president, NOFAA Noida Federation of Apartment Owners Association, told Moneycontrol that the association has held several meetings with the Noida Authority on strengthening community participation in de-stressing the health care system and reducing panic among residents.
“Discussions have been held for augmenting testing and isolation facilities, issues faced by residents during home quarantine, setting up a helpline with a panel of doctors on board, oxygen banks in sectors, supply of medicines, isolation facilities in club houses and community centers. We have also held parleys on the issue of the role of administration, hospitals and RWAs in setting up such isolation centers within societies,” he told Moneycontrol.
In Mumbai, where the lockdown has now been extended, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had issued a set of guidelines for all housing societies. Residents have been asked not to venture out of the building for unnecessary work, visitors and delivery boys are not permitted, societies have to mandatorily display phone numbers of COVID vaccination, ambulance service and other services. They have also been asked to issue regular instructions to members through WhatsApp once a case is detected within the premises.
As per the rules, if a society member has tested positive and is not adhering to government norms, this would have to be communicated to the police stations and BMC ward office.
In a noteworthy initiative, the state government has delegated special powers of police officers to the Cooperative Housing Society chairman and secretary to keep a check on the compliance of all COVID-19 norms and to ensure that patients under home quarantine are adhering to the norms.
The BMC has also set a fine of Rs 10,000 for housing societies that are seen as violating its norms. Subsequent instances of violation will attract a penalty of Rs 20,000. Wearing masks is mandatory.
Vani Dixit, chairman of residents association at Anmol Towers, Goregaon West, Mumbai told Moneycontrol that the society has set up a two-bed quarantine centre in the banquet hall with advice from doctors residing within the complex.
“In Mumbai, the houses are small and not much space is available for a person who has to spend 14 days in quarantine. We, therefore, set up this facility for patients with mild symptoms. It is not meant for serious patients. We have also purchased oxygen concentrators and several residents have used it during the second wave. We also have two small portable oxygen cylinders. We have also conducted camps for antigen tests in conjunction with BMC,” she said.
The RWA secretary has been nominated as the police-in-charge during the pandemic and he is responsible for ensuring that Covid-19 related protocols are followed. “If residents see someone not wearing a mask, they can report it to him. They do not have to rush to the police station to file a complaint. They have been asked to click pictures of the person violating the rules. The fine for not wearing a mask is Rs 5000,” she told Moneycontrol.
William Robert, secretary, Oasis CHS, Lokhandwala Township, Kandivali East, Mumbai says that the entire building that comprises of 36 floors is sanitized once a week and that lifts and common areas are fogged at least twice a day.
“The second phase has been more challenging than the first phase of the pandemic. The society has issued special passes to people employed in essential services sector to avoid crowding at the main gate. Deliveries too have been restricted,” he said.
As for setting up COVID-19 centres within the society premises, the residents’ committee is seeking advice on the legalities involved.
Can resident welfare societies set up COVID centres within club premises?
The ministry of health and family welfare in July last year had issued guidelines for gated residential complexes desirous of setting up small COVID care facility by RWAs/housing societies or NGOs. The said guidelines provided for eligibility, handling of different categories of cases, infection prevention and control practices and the logistical requirements of setting up such centres including separate entry and exit points, room ventilation, oversight mechanism etc.
This is a much needed move for reducing the burden on the already over stretched existing healthcare facilities. As per the guidelines, such COVID care centres would manage suspected/pre symptomatic or asymptomatic cases or persons having very mild symptoms. The guidelines require that once the COVID care facility is set up by the RWA in terms of the requirements enumerated in the guidelines, an advance intimation must be sent pursuant to which the District Rapid Response Team (RRT) will inspect the facility.
It is only once the facility is approved as being in accordance with the requirements laid down in the guidelines, that the same would commence functioning. The COVID care facility shall also be subject to regular monitoring/ inspections by the RRT to ensure compliance with the guidelines.
The government is now encouraging RWA/gated complexes to have such COVID centres in place and have issued guidelines now to ensure that such COVID care facilities are regulated and monitored by trained professionals, said Amrita Tonk, Partner, L&L Partners.
"These guidelines were meant to reduce the burden on existing facilities for managing mild and asymptomatic cases. The guidelines lay out some basic protocols to be followed. There are also restrictions such as, it cannot be for treatment of elderly patients, children below 10 years, pregnant/lactating women or patients with co-morbidities.
"This was largely formulated for pre-symptomatic, asymptomatic and mild cases. While technically they are not permitted to treat serious Covid patients, the circumstances require that each and every RWA do whatever they can to save lives where the state infrastructure has miserably failed to do their part," Praveen Raju, Partner, Spice Route Legal, told Moneycontrol.