Practice of revealing details of those under quarantine creates a scare

Published : March 26, 2020 16:38 IST

The home quarantine stamp on a foreign-returned person in a house in Vellore. Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

The practice of putting up quarantine notices outside the residences of those who are afflicted or have recently returned from abroad is causing serious problems for those who are under quarantine. “It is as if the person in that home has been afflicted by the coronavirus,” said a public health specialist, questioning the need for such notices when there was enough technology available to track anyone breaking the quarantine.

In almost all metropolitan cities, including Chennai, these notices have created a scare and those in rented accommodation—and under quarantine—are more anxious than others who are confined to their homes.

This is the account of a family in Delhi, which has one such notice outside their house: “We are in Delhi. Got here on 14th March [because of a family emergency]…. We managed to complete the cremation without any difficulty. All the other rituals have been put on hold bcoz of the current situation. We have been on self-quarantine and the mandatory 14-day period ends on 28th March. Except for the hospital visit and back we have not stepped out.... The cops visited us yesterday and have put a poster outside the home saying no visitors allowed until 28th.... and the neighbours (at least 8 of them) have called in the intercom asking how serious we are and how worried they should be.... We have not stepped out and we have zero symptoms—touchwood... sometimes it’s so sad.. Do we mourn the loss we have just suffered or should we worry about being ostracised or being treated like we are criminals... don't people know what is self-quarantine?.... But we are learning to cope… and I'm grateful for friends who make me laugh with funny messages.... Life is cruel sometimes and then u have silver linings....”

A white collar worker in Kolkata, who had moved to the city from Bangalore just before the 21-day lockdown, too, said that her neighbours were asking her family why she was back and if she had the affliction.

Interestingly, Karnataka has made the addresses of the quarantined residents public. A copy forwarded to this correspondent included date of arrival, from where arrived, and addresses of 14,910 people who arrived via the Kempagowda International Airport from March 10. Only the name of the arriving passenger was missing. Srujana Deva, who lives in Bangalore, in his Twitter post on March 25, said: “I just received a list of quarantined people in Bengaluru on WhatsApp…” There are many such posts on Twitter.

A person who has been quarantined in Bangalore pointed to the inefficiencies in the system. “A staffer from the Corporation came home to meet me after my details were taken down at the airport on March 13. I went on 14th to RGICD [Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases] as I couldn’t get through to the helpline. The [Corporation] person came home on 24th. He called me on phone and wanted me to come to the gate of our apartment complex to affix a stamp on my hand. I politely told him that I will not be able to because I am under quarantine. He came up to my apartment, and affixed the date March 25, though the date of my getting out of quarantine is March 27. He told me that this is the stamp he had and that I should stay home for two more days. The staffer was wearing a mask but did not have any other protective equipment on him. I did not see him disinfecting the stamp before it was used on me but he disinfected my hand,” the person added.

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