Civic officials said they faced hurdles even in this effort, as in some cases, the person was not to be found at the given address. (Representational Photo)
The BMC is facing a tough time tracking down travelers from COVID-19 affected countries who were asked to self-quarantine for 14 days when they arrived at the Mumbai international airport. The last international flight had touched down at the airport on March 22.
Officials said over 2,200 travellers were advised to self-quarantine either at facilities created by BMC or at their own homes, provided they had enough space to isolate themselves from their family members and neighbours.
However, more than half are untraceable. Of the 2,200 travelers, 1,200 couldn't be contacted, as the phone numbers they had written down in their forms at the airport are going unanswered or are unreachable.
Following guidelines issued by the central government on March 16, BMC had set up a team of 24 doctors (eight each in three shifts) to screen passengers and segregate them into three categories.
Category A (Red) patients, with symptoms of COVID-19 and comorbidities, were tagged as “high risk” and were tested. Category B (Yellow) patients had no symptoms, but because of their high age and comorbidities, some were tested after consultations with BMC's risk profile committee. Category C (Green) patients, on the other hand, were low risk passengers with no symptoms and no risk factors. All patients from Category A and some from Category B were told to self-quarantine in BMC quarantine facilities so that they could be tested. They were allowed to leave only after their tests results came negative.
The BMC had arranged self-quarantine facilities in four hotels near the airport, in civic body buildings, and at Seven Hill Hospital. While the hotels had offered quarantine facilities on payment, those put up in BMC buildings did not have to pay. However, most travellers did not stay in these facilities and travelled to their homes in Mumbai or hometowns in other parts of Maharashtra or Gujarat, even though they had been told not to use public transport and avoid contact with others. To prevent them from doing so, their hands had been stamped.
Officials said they had started to check the status of the those asked to self-quarantine, but to their shock, discovered that many had chosen to disregard the directive. "As per details, around 500 people are close to completion of their home quarantine period. However, there is no news of around 1,200 people, as either they have not responded to the civic body's multiple calls or their phone numbers have been found reachable. Some have given wrong numbers or their phone is switched off,” said an official from health department.
Among those the team has managed to contact over phone, seven had reported COVID19-like symptoms, and have been asked to report to Kasturba Hospital. Armed with their addresses from their passports, a BMC team has begun to go door to door to check on these people.
Civic officials said they faced hurdles even in this effort, as in some cases, the person was not to be found at the given address.
"We are taking help of the police to trace those who had been asked to home quarantine but could not be reached. The issue of address not matching with the data available with us could be the result of several reasons, like the person concerned could have moved to some other place, "Suresh Kakani, Additional Municipal Commissioner, said.
One policeman in plain clothes will accompany the BMC official making the home visit. The BMC has also started a dedicated phone number on which any person who has symptoms of COVID-19 can call and take guidance from municipal doctors. The number is operational between 10 am to 7 pm.