Role of Frontline Health workers in Covid-19 Pandemic

Manisha Pandit

Covid-19, the pandemic has gripped the whole nation in crisis.  Being a highly communicable disease with an increase in number of infections every day, the governments across the world decided to go for a lockdown. The lockdown has been imposed with an intention of not letting the community transmission of this deadly disease.  However, despite the lockdown, some of the non-serious activities in past few days has aggravated the situation.  Interestingly, who allowed these mass gatherings and why it caught media’s attention remains an unanswered query. Going against the orders of the government and not following physical distancing measures, can lead to worsening of the situation.

The fear of Covid-19 and quarantine has also made the people anxious, which is one of the reasons that some people with the travel history and foreign visits have not come up on their own and revealing about the history to the health department.  The worry of being shunned from the social life for a period of time, has also stigmatised the disease. Quarantine, Isolation, Social distancing have been misrepresented amidst the corona pandemic. Oxford dictionary defines Quarantine as ‘a period of time when an animal or a person that has or may have a disease is kept away from others in order to prevent the disease from spreading’. As defined by  experts from Centre for disease control and John Hopkins , ‘Social distancing is a public health practice that aims to prevent sick people from coming in close contact with healthy people in order to reduce opportunities for disease transmission which includes large-scale measures like canceling group events or closing public spaces, as well as individual decisions such as avoiding crowds’ whereas Isolation refers to ‘the separation of a person or people known or reasonably believed to be infected or contagious from those who are not infected in order to prevent spread of the disease’. However, the meaning of these terms nowhere implies to be non-empathetic to the ones who fall in quarantine and isolation. Social distancing, by no means implies to be socially isolated but definitely implies to be physically isolated and follow safe hygiene practices. Communication here can take the centre stage to aware people about the do’s and don’ts, especially for the ones, who cannot afford to switch to google or other social media platforms to get information about the disease that has created panic across the world. Especially in the case of health emergencies, communication efforts at the ground level are very much important to provide factual information and avoid spreading of myths across the communities.

In this regard, the Primary Health Care Centres can be helpful in mobilising the community and thus helping in building community resilience. A Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) is the first contact point with local community catering to a population of 20,000 (in hills) and 30,000 (in plains). The pandemic with it brings a lot of challenges to deliver health care, however if sustained communication efforts are made, the problem gets easier.  From reacting to responding, primary health care can be helpful in effectively managing the crisis.

To tackle the emergency situation of Covid-19, an effective communication plan provided to the health care workers to sensitise the respective geographical areas they cover can surely help in getting a positive emergency response. However, this is possible only if the safety and interests of the health care workers are also taken care of.  If all the primary health care centres do this task in a managed way, advancement can be made to respond to the pandemic.  Primary Healthcare Centres were established in India to cover health and sanitation. Primary Healthcare Centre have been on Swach Bharat Mission and other health related interventions in which the underlying focus has been on safe hygiene practices and behaviour change communication strategies. However, what seems to be missed here is ensuring safety of the frontline health care workers (ASHA’S, Multipurpose and Health Educators). The ones who are sensitising the community members to follow Covid19 do’s and don’ts, it has to be ensured that they are also provided with masks and gloves.

Lt. Governor, Girish Chand Murmu claimed that the health department having sufficient stock of masks for distribution among frontline workers. However  when enquired from the frontline health care workers, the answer was no. A frontline line health worker with PHC in  Jammu says, “ We have had training session that was led by our Block Medical Officer in which all the ASHA’s were trained about the safe behaviour practices to be practiced to prevent from Covid-19.  Despite of heavy rain, we conducted a survey, went door to door with a 1 m distance to sensitise about safe behaviour practices to prevent from getting infected with Covid-19. We were not provided with any masks or gloves from the care centre. However, I did purchase it from the market. We are convincing the community members to reveal about the details of the members who have been out of state or country. People are not co-operating and are giving incorrect information. This is challenging; however, we are doing our best to convince the public. We can sensitise about corona but What will we do about hunger? Sensitisation regarding corona is active, but the migrant labour population in my area is starving. We can prevent them from Corona, but they will die of hunger.  The lockdown has snatched away the only source of income of the migrant population. 

The frontline health care workers being closely knit with the community are more vulnerable in emergency settings because of the workload and the psychological distress.  Listening to the socio-economic problems along with the health issues does lead to distress, here in a people centred approach that focuses on capacity building exercises of the frontline health care workers can provide a solution thus empowering them to protect themselves and their communities.  Continuous and sustained communication efforts with the local communities at the time of this pandemic can be a vital resource to prevent community transmission of Covid-19.

Primary Healthcare Centre as a facilitator of government communication strategies plays a key role the state administration to end this highly communicable pandemic. Surveillance and Assessment of the disease with enhanced communication efforts and population-based interventions is the only way to prevent this deadly virus from taking a toll on the health of the people. With Primary care setups the interface for health promotion, the health workers are emerging as the change agents. Geeta, another frontline health worker with a PHC in Jammu says, “We are collecting information related to the details of the people who have travelled since the outbreak of the disease and are convincing them to remain in quarantine, if they have any travel history. The lockdown is necessary, but what are we going to eat and how are we going to raise our children remains a question for people like us whose family is dependent on daily wages”.

Frontline health workers in this tough time are bringing in the concerns of the public to the forefront and enabling the government’s effort to meet the threat of this global pandemic, however it is important to realise that the concerns of the frontline workers don’t remain unaddressed.


  1.  Pandve HT, Pandve TK. (2013) . Primary healthcare system in India: Evolution and challenges. Int Journal of  Health System and Disaster Management , 1 (3), 125-128. doi: 10.4103/2347-9019.129126
  2.  Pearce, K. ( 2020, March 14 ) . What is Social Distancing and How can it slow the spread of COVID-19. Retrieved from

 Manisha Pandit is presently doing her PhD in Department of Mass Communication and Electronic Media, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharmshala. A M. Phil in Media Studies, she taught in Jagran Lake city University, Bhopal.

Apr 9, 2020

Manisha Pandit

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