After a strong pushback from the Aam Aadmi Party government, which included a stormy meeting on Saturday, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal amended his order of Friday on mandatory instutional quarantine for those testing positive in the Capital.
In a statement issued after a second meeting on Saturday evening with representatives of the Delhi government, among others, Baijal said only those Covid-19 patients who do not require hospitalisation or those without “facilities for home isolation” will have to go to institutional quarantine centres. Those testing positive will, however, be referred to Covid care centres for assessment of their clinical condition, severity of illness and co-morbidities, the statement said.
“Simultaneously, physical assessment will also be done whether adequate facilities for home isolation like minimum two rooms and a separate toilet exist so that the family members and neighbours are protected and a cluster of cases does not develop in that locality. If adequate facility for home isolation exists, and the person on clinical assessment does not require hospitalization, he would be offered to either continue to stay in Covid centre/ paid isolation facility (hotels etc), or can opt for home isolation,” the L-G said in a statement.
The L-G also said it was possible that “individuals who are positive (and) may have moderate to severe illness necessitating hospitalization” can be missed if they are isolated at home.
Baijal, who heads the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), had passed an order on Friday, which made a five-day institutional quarantine mandatory for anyone who tests positive, irrespective of whether the person has symptoms or not. The order had reversed the existing protocol in Delhi, under which asymptomatic Covid patients or those with mild symptoms have the option of quarantining themselves at home.
The Delhi government had vehemently opposed the L-G’s Friday order, asking why it was the only state being subjected to this decision and also raising issues of infrastructure and the likely reluctance among people to get tested for fear of institutional quarantine.
On Saturday, the issue came up at two meetings between DDMA members, with Baijal, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Delhi Police Commissioner S N Shrivastava in attendance. During the meeting at noon, no consensus was reached and another meeting was called at 5 pm. After this meeting, Sisodia said issues had been resolved.
“The doubts the LG had regarding home isolation have been cleared and the practice will continue. We are thankful to the LG for this. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will not let the people of Delhi suffer,” he tweeted.
Sources said the rethink happened after the decision was criticised by not just the AAP, but also by former bureaucrats and the general public.
“After the order was passed, voices from several quarters said this was against the protocol being followed internationally. Several former bureaucrats as well as doctors said the move would overwhelm the present system. The main aim of the guidelines was to ensure that clusters of people don’t get infected,” said a senior official who did not want to be named.
Sources said the AAP government asked the LG during the noon meenting why the decision on institutional quarantine was taken without keeping them in the loop.
“The order was passed in the name of the DDMA when the issue was not even discussed by the members. Do we have the infrastructure to send every patient to institutional quarantine?” said a Delhi government official who did not want to be named.
However, the L-G stuck to his Friday order on discontinuing the services of a private call centre that had been roped in to make daily calls to those under home isolation.
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