A reduced period of quarantine, in violation of guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, is being seen as a possible reason for the spread of COVID-19 in CRPF’s Mayur Vihar camp, where a sub-inspector died on Tuesday.
While MoHFW has mandated 14 days of quarantine, the CRPF reduced it to five days for its paramedical staff. This is believed to have led to an infected paramedic, who had returned from Kashmir, being released from quarantine and joining active duty, leading to the spread of the virus in the camp where 46 personnel have now tested positive.
On Tuesday, 55-year-old Mohammed Ikram Hussain, a sub-inspector with the force, succumbed to the infection at Safdarjung Hospital. The entire battalion of over 1,000 personnel, camped at Mayur Vihar, has now been quarantined and the camp sealed. Sources said only half the battalion has been tested as of now, and results of 257 personnel are awaited.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, sources said, has taken cognizance of the matter and sought a report by May 1.
“Home Minister Amit Shah is personally seized of the matter. He has been taking stock of the situation and has been in touch with the family of the deceased,” said an MHA official.
Sources said that following the lockdown announcement on March 24, CRPF issued special orders reducing the quarantine period for paramedical staff from 14 to five days. The order said the quarantine period should be extended if the suspect shows symptoms, else he can be released and put on active duty.
Notably, this contradicts CRPF’s own COVID-19 containment SoPs issued mid-March, which mention a mandatory quarantine period of 14 days.
The CRPF’s nursing staff member, who was on leave at home in Noida after returning from Kupwara in Kashmir, was asked to join the 31st Battalion of the force at the Mayur Vihar camp on April 7. Under the MoHFW protocol, he would have had to stay in quarantine for 14 days, but was released within five days due to the new CRPF order.
“Unfortunately, by April 16-17, he began showing symptoms for COVID-19. By then, he had already mingled with staff at the camp,” an official said.
He added, however, that it is still in the realm of speculation whether the infection spread from this paramedic only. “The CRPF has got his entire family in Noida tested. All are negative. So it appears he did not bring the infection from Kashmir. He is being suspected as he was the first to show symptoms and be tested. It is possible that someone in the camp had asymptomatic infection,” the official said.
Barring the Mayur Vihar camp, CRPF has reported just one more infection, in Ahmedabad.
CRPF DG AP Maheshwari did not respond to calls and messages seeking a comment. Shah had on Tuesday paid tribute to the sub-inspector saying his contribution to national security was inspiring.
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