Meet the autorickshaw drivers from Kasargod who are ferrying COVID-19 patients

Harish Karuvachery and Mayil Ratheesh are providing an ambulance-like service and have ferried more than 200 patients in the last two months.
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While the contagious nature of COVID-19 has been terrifying the population, two autorickshaw drivers from Kasargod, Kerala have been making up for the shortage in ambulances.

For the past two months, Harish Karuvachery (47) and Mayil Ratheesh (42) from Nileshwar, Kasargod, have been running their rickshaws as makeshift ambulances to ferry COVID-19 positive patients and asymptomatic patients to nearby testing centres and hospitals.

"We are not running any ambulance service. We are just ferrying asymptomatic patients to testing centres or first-line treatment centres because there is a severe shortage of ambulances in Nileshwar," Harish told The New Indian Express.

So far, they have ferried over 200 patients in the last two months. During this period, the drivers tested negative twice for COVID-19.

The nearby Nileshwar Taluk Hospital has assigned drivers the task of ferrying patients since ambulances couldn’t keep up with increasing number of patients.

The idea came about when District COVID Surveillance Nodal Officer Dr V Sureshan, who was aware of Harish’s humanitarian nature presented the idea to hospital superintendent Dr Jamal Ahmed and Health Inspector, Rajesh Thirthankara.

Harish Karuvachery and Mayil Ratheesh (Image: The New Indian Express)

Soon, Mayil joined Hareesh and the two started their initiative. They were even provided with masks, sanitiser, spray guns, gloves, and shampoo. However, according to The Logical Indian, they refused PPE kits as, "there is a transparent plastic sheet separating the passenger cabin and the driver's seat. We never come in contact with them," Mayil said.

After every trip, the duo sanitises and disinfects their auto rickshaws and wipes the seats with a cotton gauze. These cotton gauzes are then stored in a plastic ziplock bag, and are burnt on reaching home. Every day, they make at least about six to seven one-way trips, and drop the patients, both positive and those recovered, to far off places as well.

"We know our passengers are COVID patients or suspects and we take precautions. But now COVID is so widespread that any passenger could be infected and the auto driver or the passenger may not be aware," Mayil said.

They charge regular fares since the passengers are primarily from poor backgrounds and cannot afford to pay high fares.


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Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan

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