Dismal conditions at COVID-19 isolation centres in Delhi

Published : April 28, 2020 16:49 IST

At a sensitive COVID-19 hotspot in New Delhi on April 19. Photo: Sushsil Kumar Verma

At a time when members of the Tablighi Jamaat, accused of spreading COVID-19, are redeeming themselves by donating blood plasma, the condition of isolation centres for COVID-19 continues to be pitiable. Most isolation centres do not have elementary amenities such as food, regular medical check-ups, toilets, proper beds, and so on. None of the centres is providing iftar and sehri to Tablighi Jamaat members housed in Wazirabad, Nand Nagari and Sultanpuri. Worse, many inmates continue to be lodged in these centres even after they have completed their recommended period of isolation.

Earlier this month, two patients suffering from diabetes died in the isolation centre at Wazirabad. One of them was desperate for food so that he could bring his blood sugar to safety levels, but was denied it.

The grim situation in the isolation centres came to light when the Chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission, Zafarul Islam Khan, spoke over phone to some of those housed in these centres. Said Khan, “The government is happy to take plasma from the Tablighis but has locked them up like hardened criminals. All the isolation centres are run by a callous administration. Tablighi inmates and many others have completed 28 days in COVID-19 isolation, rather detention, centres which is twice the mandatory 14 days quarantine period recommended by the WHO [World Health Organisation].”

It is alleged that things are so bad that men and women have been put up in the same complex. In some cases, the husband is in one complex and the wife in another. Worse, most toilets do not have doors in these centres. Incidentally, most of these were flats constructed more than a decade ago lying unused and they were turned into isolation centres when the pandemic struck. However, no attention was paid to elementary amenities in these complexes. They are manned by civil defence guards whose only instruction is to keep the inmates locked up. Even the doctors, the inmates allege, come in an arbitrary manner, with no provisions for regular check-up. It is worse for diabetes and blood pressure patients as their blood sugar and pressure needs to be monitored regularly.

Said Khan: “Some 2,000 persons are locked up in these flats. Most are Delhi Development Authority flats with no facilities. The same toilets are used by men and women. It seems the government had just locked them up and then forgotten them. There is no proper or nutritious food given to them. They are not allowed to buy food from outside either. Initially, they were dispossessed of their mobiles too. Later, the phones were returned. The supervisors never turn up to listen to their grievances.”