Chokari villagers stay indoors after 10 deaths within two days

At least 10 people died in two days — May 6 and 7 — in the village, with a population of about 15,000.

Chokari village in Padra taluka of Vadodara district wore a deserted look on Monday evening, with a complete shut down of local markets and a strict decision by villagers to stay indoors.

The reason: At least 10 people died in two days — May 6 and 7 — in the village, with a population of about 15,000. Although district health officials maintain that the deaths were due to “natural causes”, local villagers are anxious that RT-PCR test was not done on any of the deceased to confirm the claims.

In the village, which was once the chosen spot for the Gujarat government’s ambitious proposed sports university, the fear for Covid-19 is prevalent. Villagers say that several persons in the village died last week, developing breathing issues, and did not test for Covid-19 due to the unavailability of testing centres.

At the Ayushman Bharat counter in the village, the records show seven deaths — all above 60 years of age. The staff member told The Indian Express, “One of them had cancer. The rest of them were unwell and at least three of them had a respiratory illness. But they were not tested for Covid-19 and their death seems natural.”

Villagers say that in absence of a confirmatory negative test, people are anxious. “We have never heard of so many deaths in a single day. Since no Covid-19 test was conducted, how can we rule out the possibility? Most of the people are staying indoors out of this fear,” said a villager.

According to Vadodara Chief District Health Officer (CDHO), Dr Surendra Jain, the Taluka Health officer had conducted a detailed probe into the reports that at least 15 persons died within 24 hours on May 7 in the village.

Jain said, “According to the probe and examination conducted by our team, 10 persons died over May 6 and 7 but they were not Covid19 deaths. In fact, the village panchayat has recorded only seven deaths. The persons were ill and aged and the deaths were due to natural causes. Their RT-PCR was not conducted but following panic in the area, we dispatched a Dhanvantari Rath, which conducted over 40 tests in the village and only one case turned out to be Covid-19 positive. The deaths on May 6 and 7 were of natural causes only. We cannot say they were suspected Covid-19 deaths.”

Jain, who visited the village to take stock of the deaths, says that the village is divided into 12 faliyas (bylanes) and the deaths have occurred in different faliyas, which can’t be attached to a common source.

A report by the Taluka Health Officer says, “It has been found that a total of 10 deaths have occurred last week, of senior citizens due to other illnesses. The panchayat office has reported seven deaths, none of which are due to Covid-19 and it must be considered that these deaths have occurred due to other illnesses.”

On Monday, when The Indian Express visited the village, sarpanch Bhupendra Mahida was busy setting up the first Covid-19 isolation ward for the village in a classroom of the primary school. Mahida said that people in the village were “worried” but the authorities had ensured that awareness is created in the area.

“We have asked all the villagers to make sure they take their vaccines on time. We are also continuously creating awareness about Covid-19 so that people do not slack on protocols. Immunity-boosting drinks such as the ayurvedic ukala, which is recommended by the health department, is regularly distributed. We did have some issues about timely RT-PCR tests, but the health department has sent teams over the past few days,” Mahida said.

On Monday, according to volunteers of Ayushman Bharat, six persons tested positive for Covid-19. The village has seen about 60 positive cases so far, but not witnessed a “Covid-19 death” yet, Mahida said.

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