A sudden bureaucratic call and 24 hours of panic in the Capital

New Delhi: A sudden bureaucratic decision on Friday night sent some 10,500 COVID-19 patients in the Capital, along with the Delhi government and district officials here in a complete state of panic, scrambling to make sense of the direction issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority Chairperson which mandated a 5-day institutional quarantine for all COVID-19 patients who do not require hospitalisation and are currently under home isolation.

While the Delhi government was quick to point the infeasibility of the order saying that it would be significantly detrimental to their efforts in motivating more people to get tested; district officials here were lacking any form of clarity whether the order would apply to patients who start testing positive from the time the order was issued or to patients who were already in home isolation.

As of Friday, the Delhi government had said a total of nearly 10,500 COVID-19 patients were being treated at home and all of them spent the following 24 hours in complete dread and anxiety, worrying whether they would now be whisked away to institutional centres, the state of which has been made abundantly clear in the last few days.

Firstly, the Delhi government would have needed to build newer and larger isolation centres for these patients and given the stretched healthcare infrastructure, these centres would be at faraway locations like the Radha Soami Sat Sang Beas facility in Chhatarpur. Moreover, many patients, who were preparing to get tested, suddenly felt the need to reconsider their decision in light of this order.

One South Delhi resident, Prarthana Mitra, who already has a doctor's prescription for getting tested, said the order had now made her doubt whether she should get tested at all. She said, "The sanitary condition of government facilities here are a major concern." In addition, many others pointed out that isolation coaches in Delhi's heat would make the institutional quarantine that much more difficult to deal with.

While medical experts asserted that this decision would not be good for Delhi's already stretched healthcare infrastructure, they said the order should be modified to allow institutional quarantine only for people who do not have the adequate facilities to safely quarantine themselves at home.

However, after the uproar over the decision and subsequent DDMA meetings on Saturday, the L-G withdrew the order, making institutional isolation mandatory only for patients who do not have the means to safely quarantine themselves at home.

The Aam Aadmi Party had also trained their guns on the decision, questioning why such drastic changes were being recommended only for Delhi. Furthermore, the justification for the order seemed like a stretch at the very least.

Significantly, the order cited a suspicion from MHA officials that Delhi's cases were increasing because home isolation patients were not being monitored efficiently and

were spreading the virus, despite no hard evidence to support this suspicion.

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