Mumbai: Many with travel history to affected countries unwilling to self-quarantine

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During the course of a conversation with an officer, the complainant told him that he had just returned from a Dubai tour. (AP/Representational Image)

On March 7, a tour operator who had faced cyber fraud came to check on the status of a complaint he had lodged at Ghatkopar police station. During the course of a conversation with an officer, the complainant told him that he had just returned from a Dubai tour. It set alarm bells ringing after the officer realised that the man, though not showing any symptoms of being infected, had come to them during a period in which he should have been in self quarantine, keeping in view the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“I yelled at the man and asked him to be responsible and not step out of the house. So many people come to the police station and he could have ended up infecting others. We took necessary precautions and, luckily, he eventually did not show any symptoms of coronavirus,” an officer said.

Like the complainant in the Ghatkopar case, there are several other cases in which people returning from Dubai or other coronavirus-affected countries are unwilling to self quarantine. Normally, according to procedure, Indians coming in from such countries are screened and tested at the airport to rule out infection. If at that point they do not show any symptom, they are allowed to go but asked to quarantine themselves for two weeks to rule out possible infection. However, several people have not taken this seriously.

Surabhi Puri, who works at a digital agency, said her colleague returned from Dubai last week but started coming to office within a few days and did not observe home isolation.

Another Kandivali resident, who came to Kasturba hospital to get tested, said he returned from Dubai on March 8. Since he had no symptoms, he was advised to observe home quarantine for 14 days and report if symptoms emerge. “I can’t afford to stay home, I have a big family and there is work to do,” he told The Indian Express.

A Mulund resident, who recently arrived from Dubai, said, “I went to Dubai with my husband for a vacation. As soon as we heard that the virus had infected people in Mumbai and it was from a passenger who had a travel history to Dubai, we went for a check-up with a doctor we knew. We wanted to ensure that we weren’t infected because we have a grandson at home, who is just a few months old.”

The woman said she and her husband had not restricted their movement as they did not show any symptom. “Apart from the check-up in Dubai, we also underwent a check-up at the Mumbai airport that guaranteed we weren’t infected,” she added.

Anup Kumar Yadav, director, National Health Mission in Maharashtra, said, “Social distancing is key right now. If we practise it, we have some hope of curbing the spread. Anybody with a cough or cold must remain indoors, especially those with a travel history abroad.” Dr Jayanthi Shastri, heading Kasturba laboratory, where so far nine cases have tested positive, said once the virus spread in the community, contact tracing will become difficult.