Family of five COVID-19 positive members had skipped quarantine to attend a family programme in Nadia district

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This came a day after five members of a family tested positive for the virus the highest number of cases in a day in the state so far. (Representational Photo)

Three elderly women in the state tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on Saturday, taking the total to 18.

This came a day after five members of a family tested positive for the virus the highest number of cases in a day in the state so far. They had broken quarantine protocols to travel to the state from Delhi.

Two of the women who tested positive on Saturday are the relatives of the 66-year-old man from the city’s Nayabad locality, who had tested positive last Wednesday. One of the patients is 76 years old, and the other is 56. Both of them are from the city of Egra in Purba Medinipur district, and have been admitted to an isolation ward at Egra government hospital.

According to a source in the health department, the women had attended a wedding in their hometown, where their male relative was also present. The 66-year-old is in the intensive care unit of a private hospital in South Kolkata at present, and on a ventilator.

“In that marriage ceremony in Egra, some people came from foreign countries,” said a senior health department official. “We are suspecting they caught the infection from them. We are monitoring all the people who attended the wedding. Some of them have already been told to remain quarantined at home.”

The third woman who tested is from Kalimpong, and has been admitted to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital. “We also don’t know the details of the patient, but are trying to accumulate information about her,” said a health official.

Meanwhile, officials pieced together the journey of the family that tested positive on Friday, days after jumping quarantine. The five include two sisters aged 27 and 45, and their children — a nine-month-old infant, a six-year-old girl, an one-year-old boy.

The health department said the family — three of them live in Uttarakhand, and two are from Delhi — attended an event in Delhi on March 16. It was also attended by their brother, who was visiting from London. The following day, the brother fell ill and COVID-19 symptoms appeared. He was diagnosed with the disease at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, which advised the two women and their family to remain in quarantine for at least 14 days.

However, the women violated the advisory, and travelled to Tehatta, a small town in Nadia district, to attend an event on March 22. The 27-year-old woman and her two children arrived in Kolkata by Rajdhani Express on March 20. Her sister and 11-year-old nephew arrived here the following day. Another relative took a flight to the city.

All of them took the Lalgola passenger train to Bethuadahari in Nadia district, and from there travelled to Tehatta. Officials are not sure of their mode of transport in this part of the journey, and believe at least one of the sisters took an auto-rickshaw.

The day after the function, the 45-year-old developed a fever, and dry cough. At the Tehatta Sub-Divisional Hospital, she was diagnosed as a probable coronavirus patient.

The hospital then started investigating the case history, and collected the swab samples of eight members of the family. Three of the reports were negative. The authorities started monitoring 13 people in the family, and all of them were shifted to Beleghata ID Hospital here in 10 ambulances on Saturday morning.

The state health department is now trying to trace the people who came in contact with the sisters and the other relative after March 20. An auto-driver who took one of the sisters to the Nadia town has been identified and advised home quarantine. The process to identify the passengers on the Rajdhani, and Lalgola train who came in contact with the family is going on.

Officials are also trying to track down the people who came in contact with the relative who flew to Kolkata, and people in Tehatta who would have been exposed to the virus.

“These two sisters came in contact with a coronavirus positive patient,” said a health official. “So, they are very vulnerable. It is positive that, till now, nobody became coronavirus positive outside the family. But, if this will happen, then it will be a extreme vulnerable case for us. So, we are now minutely studying their movement from March 16.”

In Kolkata, roads remained deserted and people stayed indoors on the fourth day of the 21-day nationwide lockdown. Markets were open, but there were not many customers. In many places, the police and local organisations helped elderly people get food and medicines.

Meanwhile, in the wake of rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state, the West Bengal health department has taken a slew of measures to contain the outbreak of the deadly virus and raise awareness among people about the benefits of staying indoors during the crisis period.

As a part of its initiatives to tackle the pandemic, the health department has started converting portions of several government hospitals across the state into isolation centres for COVID-19 patients.

"We have taken all forms of precautionary measures to contain the outbreak of coronavirus in West Bengal. We have readied hospitals and set up isolation units for COVID-19 patients," a senior state health official said.

The state government had discharged patients, barring critical ones, and stopped new admission to the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital to convert the entire facility into an isolation and treatment centre for people suspected to be infected with coronavirus.

With PTI inputs