As I sit down to write this article, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has breached the 30k mark in India and is rising. In light of this scenario, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has issued a fresh set of guidelines for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are displaying very mild symptoms or are in the pre-symptomatic stage.
Who is Eligible for Home Isolation?
- To be eligible for home-isolation, an authorised medical officer should clinically declare the person as mild or pre-symptomatic for COVID-19
- The person should have access to a place for self-isolation and also have a facility to quarantine their family members
- The patient is also required to have a caregiver, round the clock
- Caregivers and other close contacts will have to take Hydroxychloroquine prophylaxis under a doctor’s prescription as a preventative measure
- It is also recommended that those under home-isolation download the Aarogya Setu app and ensure that it is functional at all times
- The patient in self-isolation is required to give all health details to the District Surveillance Officer, who will check in on the patient’s condition from time to time
- The person in self-isolation has to fill a self-isolation undertaking and abide by the guidelines set by the Ministry
Please note: If at any point, the patient develops difficulty in breathing, persistent pain in the chest, mental confusion, bluish discolouration of face or lips, then medical attention should be sought immediately.
Furthermore, people who have other illnesses like hypertension or diabetes will not be given the option of home-isolation.
Dr Vivek Nangia, Director and Head, Pulmonology, Medical Critical Care and Sleep Disorders, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi says, “This move comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is that patients get to stay in the comfort of their own home, so all those people who are fearful of getting hospitalised mandatorily will now come and get themselves tested. This could also mean that we see a spike in positive cases. Maintaining strict isolation and sanitisation may not be possible and may endanger the other family members too. One needs to be monitored very closely since their condition could deteriorate quickly.”
This move is also likely to ease the burden on the healthcare system. “As of now 80 per cent of the patients have mild symptoms and do not necessarily require hospitalisation for medical reasons. This will free up more beds and resources for more serious patients,” he says.
What Are Other Countries Doing?
While in Japan, there was an initial home isolation policy for mild cases, the death of two COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms, led them to revert to the hospitalisation of all COVID-19 cases. Singapore also does not allow COVID-19 patients to self-isolate themselves to keep the immediate family members well protected.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)