Narinder Batra: COVID-positive SAI cook had no access to hockey players

Updated: May 21, 2020, 08:17 IST | PTI | New Delhi

The cook died of a cardiac arrest at Bengaluru's BGS Hospital and later tested positive for COVID-19, according to a top SAI official, who said there was no reason to panic as the deceased never interacted with the players

Narinder Batra
Narinder Batra

Hockey India on Wednesday ruled out shifting the Olympic-bound men's and women's hockey teams from the Sports Authority of India's Bengaluru centre as the COVID-19 positive cook, who died after suffering a cardiac arrest, did not have access to the players. The cook died of a cardiac arrest at Bengaluru's BGS Hospital and later tested positive for COVID-19, according to a top SAI official, who said there was no reason to panic as the deceased never interacted with the players.

"The question of moving out the teams from Bengaluru doesn't arise because it's the best facility in the country," HI CEO Elena Norman told PTI. "Even if we think of such a move, it is practically impossible because of the nationwide lockdown." A top SAI official said that the cook had not gone beyond the gate area since March 10. "A cook, part of around 60 employees, who were asked to stay at home since March 10 because of their old age, died of cardiac arrest at a hospital," the official told PTI.

"He went to the hospital for the birth of a child of one of his relatives and had a cardiac arrest there and died. As part of the protocol, he was tested for COVID-19 and his reports came out positive. "The campus is divided into three sections -- Gate area, Sector-A and Sector-B. The players stay in the last part, Sector-B, so they are completely safe and are already living a quarantined life for the last 2 months," he added.

The SAI official rejected reports that the deceased cook attended a meeting involving the players inside the SAI campus last Friday. "He was staying outside the campus for the past 65 days," he said. "Our campus went into lockdown on March 10 before the nationwide lockdown was announced. The cook last visited the campus on March 15 but he was confined to the Gate area and was not allowed in.

"But still as a precaution, we have put 4-5 people, like guards, the remotest person who might have come in contact with him, into quarantine," the official added. Later on Wednesday, the SAI issued a formal statement, acknowledging the cook's visit to SAI on March 15. "The person went through all necessary screenings, including thermal screening, before entering the SAI center and was found to be absolutely fit. He was wearing mask and given hand sanitizer at the gate," it said.

"The meeting was attended by 16 members, including the deceased, at the auditorium (Seating capacity of 300) near the administrative block of the center. Social distancing norms, as per government guidelines, were followed during the meeting. "The deceased left soon after the meeting and did not interact with any of the players or other staff members housed in the center."

The SAI further confirmed that they have quarantined four officials who were present in the meeting. "The others, who live outside the center, have been home quarantined. The Senior Director in charge of the center has also been directed to take all necessary precautions as per the health guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to ensure that all players and staff housed inside the campus are safe," the statement read.

"The issue has been reported to the local administration on May 19, 2020 and all necessary preventive steps are being taken." Commenting on the matter, Indian Olympic Association president Narinder Batra said he is satisfied with all the precautions taken in the aftermath of the incident. "I have been in touch with Hockey India and I am fully satisfied with the way SAI Bangalore centre has been kept safe and sanitised. SAI administration is doing its best to handle the issue at hand and there is no reason to panic.

"We have spoken to officials and players staying in SAI Bangalore, it is clear that none of them have interacted with the person who tested COVID positive," Batra said.

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