Covid-19: Panchkula slum quarantined after a resident tests positive

Pallavi Singhal

Police, administration and health officials at the entrance of the slum. (Express photo: Pallavi Singhal)

HOURS AFTER a 40-year-old woman in Panchkula near Chandigarh was tested positive, the administration has cordoned off the slum where she lived with her family. Access to the slum, which has a population of about 9,000, has been curtailed, and residents have been told to quarantine themselves immediately.

It was late Friday night that the test results of the woman, a masseuse at a beauty parlour in Chandigarh, was released by PGI, Chandigarh, showing she had tested positive. Health officials found out that the woman had massaged a 21-year-old with a travel history to London, who later ended up being the first case in Chandigarh to test positive for coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the woman, along with her 17-year-old son, had been traced as among the contacts of the 21-year-old. Officials said the 40-year-old was brought to the hospital against her will and put in isolation. The son has tested negative but is still being kept in a different isolation ward.

“We cannot pinpoint the total number of primary or secondary contacts she must have had. She herself is scared and cannot remember much. We have had to cordon off the whole colony. It is a cluster quarantine of more than 2,500 households,” said Panchkula Chief Medical Officer Jasjeet Kaur.

The husband of the woman, along with their two other children, were picked up by health and police teams and sent to the isolation ward in Panchkula’s Sector 6 Civil Hospital. “He did not want to go. He created a ruckus and was taken away forcibly,” a neighbour said.

At least four teams of healthcare officials, with three nurses and a senior doctor in each team, a nodal officer and 50 police personnel have been deployed in the area.

The residents of the slum — who work as Class 4 employees in government offices, drive autorickshaws or work as help in homes in the city — have been barred from moving out of the quarantined region. Movement inside too has been restricted. Anyone seen coughing or sneezing has been provided with masks.

Kamlesh, a 27-year-old who lives next door to the 40-year-old who has tested positive, works as a cook in homes in Panchkula. “My employers called me today and asked me not to come for at least a few days. I am worried they will deduct my salary or even replace me. My husband is a labourer and we have a seven-year-old daughter. I am worried how will I run my house. We only have ration to last a few more days,” she said.

Although police have put up barricades every few meters to ensure none of these residents leave the slum, some of them had already left for work in the morning.

“We cannot just sit at home, who will feed us,” said one of the residents.

Nodal officer for the outbreak in Panchkula, Dr Rajiv Narwal, said, “We are screening all the residents for a viral load. The Municipal Corporation has been asked to sanitise the area. If the quarantine runs long, the administration might provide them with food and rations. All symptomatic patients will be taken out of the area and into the hospital.”

7 patients admitted to the isolation ward

A total of 17 patients are admitted to the isolation ward at Civil Hospital. As many as 115 isolation beds, including those at Civil Hospital, polyclinic and private hospitals, have already been created.

Meanwhile, movement to enter as well as leave the village area has been restricted along with the help of administration and police officials.

In Panchkula, as many as 19 passengers out of a total of 256 people with travel history have completed 28-day quarantine.

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