On 23 July, Satish Sangameswaran, a resident of Ranka Heights in Bengaluru, tweeted a picture of two men blocking the doorways of two apartments with corrugated metal sheets. The flats are occupied by a woman and two children, and an elderly couple.
The houses were sealed after the domestic help of one of the houses was infected with the coronavirus. The image went viral and received a lot of flak from netizens.
“BBMP sealing done in our building for a confirmed Covid case. Lady with 2 small children, next-door neighbours are an aged couple. What if there is a fire, @BBMPCOMM? Understand the need for containment, but this is an extremely dangerous fire hazard – please address urgently,” read the tweet.
Sangameswaran also pointed out how the metal sheets would make it impossible to supply the families with groceries and other essential items.
Soon, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner N Manjunatha Prasad took to Twitter and apologised for the “over-enthusiasm of local staff”.
“We are committed to address any issues that result in stigma. Apologies for the over-enthusiasm of the local staff,” he wrote on Twitter. “We are committed to treat all persons with dignity. The purpose of containment is to protect the infected and to ensure uninfected are safe,” he tweeted.
The barricades were removed, and the matter was resolved quickly. However, this entire incident brought to light several issues, right from disregarding the guidelines set by the government authorities to reinforcing stigma around COVID-19.
Manoj Kumar Meena, BBMP East Zone coordinator clarified that sealing the door of a family with positive cases is not a part of their protocol.
“Closing the door of an apartment is never our way of containment. Access to the apartment is restricted, and others in the same place of residence are asked to be under strict home quarantine. The Joint Commissioner will serve a notice to the concerned people behind this at the earliest,” he told Indian Express.
As per the guidelines issued by BBMP, after the health team from BBMP authorises home isolation for the COVID-19 patient, a notice will be posted on the house door. The team will also stamp the hands of the patients, specifying the dates of quarantine for 17 days. The apartment committee will have to ensure their compliance with the rules.
While guidelines to seal houses or apartments have been issued by the Centre, state governments and local municipal corporations are ensuring additional measures to contain the spread of transmission.
Guidelines from Central Government
- The health status of those under home isolation should be monitored by the field staff/surveillance teams through personal visits along with a dedicated call centre to follow up the patients on a daily basis.
- The clinical status of each case shall be recorded by the field staff/call centre (body temperature, pulse rate and oxygen saturation). The field staff will guide the patient on measuring these parameters and provide the instructions to patients and their caregivers.
- Details about patients under home isolation should also be updated on COVID-19 portal and facility app. Senior State and District officials should monitor the records update.
- A mechanism to shift patients in case of violation or need for treatment has to be established and implemented.
- All family members and those in contact with the patient shall be monitored and tested as per protocol by the field staff.
Here’ a look at protocols from some other cities:
The protocol followed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) depends on the gravity of the situation or number of cases. If a resident from society is found COVID-19 positive, only that floor will be sealed instead of the entire building.
However, the entire building will be sealed if it comes under areas with high-risk contact areas.
“We do not seal individual houses. We put up a board at the building entrance mentioning the house number and wing of the house along with measures to be followed. Once the patients recover, we follow a thorough test and depending on the results; we remove the board,” Vishwas Shankar, Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Zone 7), BMC informs The Better India.
Once the signboard is up, the BMC officials will explain the isolation and social distancing protocols to the building committee who will ensure that the rules are strictly followed. Moreover, essential supplies will have to be delivered to the society entrance gate, from where the committee can arrange for them to be delivered to the doorstep of the quarantined.
In case of any complaints or queries, residents can call the helplines 108 and 1916 or reach out to the ward officials and war rooms.
Like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, which is witnessing a spike in COVID-19 cases, does not seal the house of a patient.
“If the building has more than ten cases, we declare it as a micro-containment area by putting up a 10×10 hoarding at the entrance. For just one or two cases, we attach a sticker at the front door of the house,” Bhavin Solanki, Medical Officer of Health, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) tells The Better India.
Darshil Gandhi and his family were tested positive for the virus and put under home quarantine two weeks ago. He says, “The AMC officials put a red sticker on my door that says we are under quarantine. After 14 days, if my tests are negative, they will put a green sticker indicating it is safe for us to move around.”
A medical officer from the district administration team visits the house of a confirmed COVID-19 patient with appropriate PPE, they stamp the patient’s left hand, and gets a certificate signed.
They will take a photo of the certificate as a record and place a sticker of home isolation for the affected persons outside the residence. The sticker will mention the dates for isolation.
Common spaces of the building such as lifts or stairs will be sanitised twice a day with one per cent sodium hypochlorite solution, and neighbours can help them with any essential items like medicines, rations, vegetables, etc. by leaving these outside the door of their house.
Click here to read the full SOP.
As per a report in The Times of India, for patients under home isolation in Chennai, the city municipal corporation seals the house with asbestos sheets and pastes a brown sticker so that the locality is aware of the situation at all times.
Please note that home isolation in cases of COVID-19 cases is only for mild or pre-symptomatic persons.
Read revised guidelines for home isolation of very mild/pre-symptomatic/asymptomatic COVID-19 cases of the Central government here.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Featured Image courtesy: Satish Sangameswaran