Shanthi, a differently-abled master tailor, visits 250 homes everyday to identify symptomatic people in Kodambakkam, a key Covid hotspot in Chennai with around 10,000 positive cases. Her day starts as early as 7:30 AM and finishes at around 4 PM.
She checks the temperature of residents, quizes them for symptoms, and spreads awareness on wearing masks, frequently washing hands, and social distancing. Her efforts have even helped the early identification and recovery of four positive people.
Shanthi is among Chennai City corporation's 16,000 non-medical workers who conduct door-to-door screening. The iniative, authorties say, has led to a 50 per cent fall in positive cases in Chennai's daily tally even as they rise in other Tamil Nadu districts.
Shanthi says not all residents are cooperative. She adds, "Most people cooperate seeing a differently-abled woman reaching out to them. Some feel irritated too. I'd not be worried. For me, people should be safe. When I visit them again the next day they are polite. Establishing a good rapport helps".
And there are several others like Shanthi who stay at the corportation's homeless shelter for differently abled women and help in the fight against Covid-19.
Not far away Kodambakkam, Kavitha, who is also differently-abled, has joined the effort as a supervisor. Though she has a retrofitted bike, Kavitha walks holding her crutches to meet people. "I am happy," she says about the decline in numbers, but adds, "I want this to come down to perhaps around 100 a day. I'm confident we can reach that".
On the ground floor of the homeless shelter where the two stay, Matilda Funceca, a wheelchair basketball player, and Manimekalai, a school teacher, upload all the data sent by around 40 women to Chennai Corporation's server. Matilda says she has no fear of contracting coronavirus. "When we help others, God will protect us" she adds. Asked about the precautions they take, Manimekalai explains: "I wear a mask, follow social distancing and do frequent hand wash. I also take Kabasura Kudineer, Siddha immunity-boosting drink".
A few months ago, when corona first struck Chennai these differently-abled women used their time and talent to stitch masks for sanitary workers in the city.
Dr Aishwarya Rao, director of the Shelter and Dorcas Research Centre that runs the shelter, said "They adapt according to the need of the hour. Earlier mask was needed and they rose to the occasion. Now it's time for community intervention and they readily said yes".
Coronavirus cases in Tamil Nadu have crossed the two lakh-mark with 6,989 new cases reported in the last 24 hours, which is also the biggest single-day spike, government data shows. Eighty-nine have died and 7,758 have recovered in the last 24 hours. The total cases in the state is now 2,06,737.