The Aedes aegypti doesn’t seem to care about diplomatic immunity. At least 20 people from the diplomatic community — diplomats and their family members — have been affected by dengue in the capital in the last one month.
Those affected include diplomats and their family members from Pakistan, Germany, UK, US, Canada, Australia, Italy and Palestine. “This is one of the worst dengue outbreaks to have affected the diplomatic community in the capital,” a western diplomat, who has been in India for more than three years, told The Indian Express. With the total number of dengue cases in the city crossing 3,700, there is a fair bit of panic in the diplomatic community.
The Ministry of External Affairs arrived at the figure through interactions with various embassies. Most embassies do not share information about the health of diplomats since it impinges on “privacy”. “This means there could be more than 20 diplomats or family members who have been affected,” said a South Block official.
While most embassies are located in Chanakyapuri area, diplomats mostly live in south and central Delhi localities such as Vasant Vihar, Satya Niketan, Anand Niketan, Golf Links and West End. “It is not in the embassy’s control if the child of a diplomat is affected in a south Delhi locality, since that is the responsibility of civic bodies. Diplomats are as exposed to dengue like any other citizen of Delhi,” a European diplomat said.
Inside their compounds, most embassies hire private agencies for fumigation since the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) does fumigation only outside embassy premises. The NDMC, it is learnt, has already raised the issue of staff not being given access to check mosquito-breeding inside embassies.
The Health Secretary is learnt to have written to Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar requesting him to issue directions to embassies and foreign missions to allow NDMC staff inside. Sources said the MCD had detected heavy mosquito-breeding conditions in five embassies, Ghana, Singapore, Malaysia, Ethiopia and the Czech Republic, last month.
While it is the individual embassy’s prerogative to allow NDMC squads or not, embassies and embassy-run schools are taking the issue quite seriously.
The Indian Express has learnt that the American Embassy school has put out advisories for its students to cover up, while the French embassy school has got a French doctor to give a talk to students and teachers on the precautions that need to be taken.
The German school has distributed a list of doctors and hospitals, with their mobile numbers and ambulance services, so that their diplomats can directly contact them.
A British High Commission spokesperson told The Indian Express, “We cannot discuss the health of diplomats, but we have passed on general advice about covering up, using mosquito repellants, etc. Fogging machines are used regularly at the High Commission compound.”
A US embassy functionary also said diplomats and staff working at the mission have been asked to be “careful”.
The High Commissions of Australia, Canada and France also said adequate measures are being taken. The German embassy said they have hired private agencies to conduct fumigation inside the premises.
The Italian embassy has requisitioned a team of two Italian doctors from Rome to treat Italian marine Salvatore Girone, who is suffering from dengue.