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Isolation Wards or Contamination Chambers?

By Shitij Sharma

Satyam Barolia, 21, arrived in India on March 20, 2020 from London where he was a student. After 14 days had passed the government decided that those who had travelled to India during that time must now be taken to quarantine centres. By then Satyam had reached his home in the northern Indian state of Bihar, from where he was picked up by authorities after being he had already spent 12 days in isolation in his home without testing positive for coronavirus. More outrageously, while he was suddenly taken to an isolation ward, his family and people he could possibly have been in contact with were not tested.

When he reached the clinic, he was asked to sit for about four hours without any sort of protection or communication. When he was finally called inside around 7:30 he was made to sit in front of three doctors who in his own words “couldn’t care less”. They took down his name and travel details and then started chatting between themselves about a TV show. When new patients began arriving around 8, the doctors decided they were done for the day and could not take on any more patients. They had apparently filled enough documents to submit to authorities.

After 5 hours Satyam was allotted a room. There was no provision for either food or water. Even as he walked around the building after being allotted a room, there was no supervision. There was no one to advise people to go back to their rooms. Hence, an infected person could freely mingle with those that were yet to test positive and even those that may have merely accompanied them to the center, for example, family or friends.

There were at least 30 people in the ward living in close proximity to each other. All 30 had arrived from various parts of the world. They had to share a common bathroom and water filters and were placed in wards with beds barely a meter distance from one another. What we must remember is that these were people who had not been tested positive yet.

He was made to wait for hours and not allowed to go to sleep with the excuse that they were putting bed-sheets. When he finally reached the allocated room no. 80, there were no bed-sheets. The surroundings were extremely dirty and the washroom was beyond unhygienic with excreta on the toilet seat.

According to him, when he had asked when he would be able to get some sleep, this is what the one of the authorities said "tum logo ko toh paani bhi nahi dena chayee (You people should not even be given water.)"

A throat swab was finally taken. They waited for three days. When the test finally came back it was negative. According to the report, the subject in question was fourteen years old. In order to remedy the situation, the doctor delayed the discharge by two hours and simply overwrote 21 over the 14 instead of checking the veracity of the report.

The isolation ward in question was created in DMCH –Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital in the district of the same name in Bihar. The ward number was 80. From what he recounts, the numbers of patients with him had gone up too about 40 by the time he was discharged.

These hellish conditions in isolation wards are one reason why people are refusing to come forward or hiding their travel history. On social media an individual named Navya Dua shared videos that exposed the deplorable conditions in the Isolation Wards. According to the tweets, there were forty people living with only three washrooms and five large bedrooms. The washrooms were extremely unhygienic.

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