Coronavirus scare: Reckless officials endanger 3,000 in Ahmednagar

Updated: Mar 20, 2020, 07:33 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Local tehsildar and police officers escort the senior officials to univ campus where they were first quarantined after their return from the US

Shops shut due to the Coronavirus scare in Santacruz. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Shops shut due to the Coronavirus scare in Santacruz. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

The 3,000-resident campus of the prestigious Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (Agricultural University) in taluka Rahuri in Ahmednagar district, spent a couple of sleepless nights, after two very senior university officials socialised instead of compulsorily quarantining themselves, after their return from the USA early this week. However, the campus and the tehsil town heaved a sigh of relief as the two have tested negative for COVID-19 and were put in home quarantine.

mid-day learnt that the two officials were forcefully taken to a quarantine facility in the Ahmednagar district civil hospital late on March 17 when the district collector's intervention did not convince them. Local tehsildar and police staff escorted the senior officers, who cannot be identified in the wake of the epidemic prevention protocol, to Ahmednagar, which is 40 km from Rahuri.

A faculty member told mid-day over the phone, that the two officials are ranked among the top four in the 51-year-old university. Both hold doctorate degrees, and one of them, who was appointed five years ago, is due to retire this summer. "Both visited Washington for official work and returned to Mumbai early this week. Then they travelled by road to Pune, where they met many people and finally came to the campus office on the evening of March 17, where they convened meetings and hosted visitors who wanted to greet them," said a faculty member. "This was highly insensitive on the part of the people who are highly qualified in science. We presumed that they were aware of the protocol for passengers with travel history to certain countries, including the USA. As our concern became serious, some people from the university called up the collector, who in return, tried convincing the travellers, but in vain. Finally, the local tehsildar was directed to do the needful under the supervision of the local police," said the professor.

When contacted, collector Rahul Dwivedi neither confirmed nor denied the incident, but added that he wouldn't reveal the identity of the suspects in view of the protocol. The police officials were evasive in their replies. However, when mid-day contacted the vice-chancellor's office, a senior officer confirmed in the very beginning that the two suspects had tested negative for Coronavirus. "The test reports came late Thursday morning and the officials who were kept in the civic hospital have returned home this afternoon where they have been quarantined," the officer said. The officer said a message that the suspects have tested negative has been circulated in the campus.

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