Coronavirus outbreak: New testing guidelines leave Ghatkopar family distressed

Updated: Apr 22, 2020, 07:41 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

A hospital staff tests positive, but BMC asks his parents and brother to wait 8-9 days for test

The building in Pant Nagar, Ghatkopar, where the family lives
The building in Pant Nagar, Ghatkopar, where the family lives

A family of four had a harrowing experience after the BMC decided to implement the new ICMR guidelines of testing the asymptomatic high-risk contacts of a COVID-19 positive case only after Day 5 of coming in contact with the patient.

A man who lived in an apartment at Pant Nagar, Ghatkopar, tested positive for the novel Coronavirus and his building was sealed on April 13. While he was admitted to the hospital where he worked, his parents, both senior citizens, and brother were asked to home quarantine.

They requested the BMC that they be tested even though they hadn't started showing the symptoms. However, their requests allegedly fell on deaf ears, and the family decided to get themselves tested at a private laboratory, where they spent R13,500.

"We were under stress as both of my parents are senior citizens. We pleaded for tests several times, but the doctor kept repeating the same ICMR guidelines. He advised us to go to Rajawadi hospital in our own vehicle. We tried it on Friday, but the police did not allow us to leave our building," said the brother of the hospital staffer who tested positive first.

Local activist Ajay Bagal said his brother had recovered and wanted to return home, but couldn't as his family members hadn't been tested.

On Saturday, the brother of the staffer and their parents managed to reach Rajawadi hospital, but they had to return after two hours as 'no one cooperated'. They finally contacted a private lab, which sent an assistant to collect the samples on Sunday. On Monday evening the lab informed the BMC that all three have tested positive.

"There were no beds available. My brother asked for my parents to be admitted to a private hospital. They were shifted there at midnight. BMC officials took me to an isolation facility at a hotel," the brother told mid-day on Tuesday afternoon. Around 3 pm, the BMC moved the brother to another private hospital after he developed the symptoms.

Prabhakar Shinde, a group leader of the BJP in the BMC who raised the issue, said, "The guidelines was issued considering the general trend, but it has to be applied judicially. There are senior citizens in the family. The ward office ignored their pleas. Who is responsible if something goes wrong?" He added, "The son, who first tested positive, had recovered and wanted to return home, but due to the apathy of the civic body, now the family is separated." Ajit Kumar Ambi, assistant commissioner of N ward said, "We are following ICMR guidelines. At our level, we decided to do a test on 8th or 9th day so that the result won't come back false negative." He added, "We cannot bend the rule for every family but we will definitely inform the higher authorities about such a situation."

Mumbai did not record a drastic rise in positive cases over the past four days because the BMC has started following the new guidelines of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). ICMR states that asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a COVID-19 patient should be tested once between Day 5 and Day 14 of coming in contact. Instead of testing the asymptomatic people as they did before, the BMC have instructed them to remain in home quarantine.

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