A GROUP of 14 stranded migrant workers from Bihar have been living a nightmare since a 47-year-old man living with them tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. The patient only managed to get admitted to a hospital on Tuesday.
Local residents initially restricted the group from leaving their garment unit, where they live, even to access the public toilet, demanding that they also undergo tests. “We called on the helpline and even pleaded with the civic authorities. There has been no response. We have been living in fear,” said a 20 year old.
Last week, a 47-year-old man, who has to undergo dialysis twice a week due to kidney failure, went to a hospital for the procedure but was asked to first get a COVID-19 test done. After having undergone a test in a private lab, the man received the report on Monday, which detected him as being infected. “He used to work at the garment unit many years ago but since his condition deteriorated, he has stopped working. He continued to live here and go for dialysis twice a week at Sion hospital. When he returned on Monday and informed us of the results, we did not allow him inside the unit,” said one of the owners of the unit.
The patient himself and through others, including social workers, attempted to get admitted and called civic officials as well as the police. But he was admitted to Nair hospital only on Tuesday.
Local residents have been demanding that since the man had stayed with the group, there was a need to quarantine and test them as well.
With the BMC’s new regulations, contacts of COVID-19 patients are not tested unless they show symptoms. “The group has access to common toilets meant for the entire ground plus one storey building. On Tuesday, we did not allow them to venture out of their unit. We have been requesting authorities to take them to a quarantine facility,” said a resident of the building.
The residents on Wednesday made arrangements to allow the group access to one common toilet, which would not be used by others. The building has other garment units, where migrant workers have been staying in groups of over 10 people since the lockdown. The group said they are living constantly in fear about contracting the virus. “This fear has been there since the number of cases in Dharavi started increasing. We had attempted to leave for our homes before the lockdown and had even got tickets but they were cancelled. The panic among others living here that we may infect them is also adding to our fear. Our families have been calling us but we have not informed them about our situation,” said the 20 year old.
One of the owners of the garment unit said that they had been arranging food for the group by taking a loan from the landlord. “We do not know how to manage from next mor onth. We do not know how much time it will take to start running the unit normally even after the lockdown ends,” he said. Residents said that they are arranging for food to be kept outside the unit for the group for now.
When contacted, a civic official said that arrangements will be made to shift the group to a quarantine facility. Dharavi till Wednesday has reported 189 cases, including 12 deaths.
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