After being Covid-19 free for over 16 days, Parbhani district reported three positive cases on Friday, with the local administration pinning the blame on authorities in Mumbai. All the three cases belong to the family of a Mumbai policeman, who had allegedly violated lockdown rules and slipped out of a containment zone.
According to Parbhani Collector D M Mugalikar, the policeman is a prison guard at the Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail where 158 inmates and 26 jail staff have tested positive, so far.
While the state government had cordoned off the jail premises, a coronavirus hotspot, on May 7, the guard and his family, who reside at the staff quarters on its premises, had slipped out on May 9 and travelled to Parbhani’s Jintur taluka in a car.
“The policeman’s wife and two children, aged 10 and five, have tested positive for the virus,” said Mugalikar, who has now demanded a probe as to how the policeman and his family were permitted to travel from a hotspot to a green zone several hundred kilometres away without being stopped.
Lockdown rules in Maharashtra prohibit inter-district travel. For holders of special transit passes and those involved in essential services, norms allow only two people to travel in a car. But Mugalikar said that policeman’s family and four others had travelled from Mumbai to Marathwada in a hired car.
“As part of contact tracing, we have found that a jail teacher and his family of three had also travelled in the same car. They got down at Beed. The driver, a resident of Shastri Nagar in Dombivali, went back after dropping the policeman and his family to Sevdi village in Jintur taluka, where they own a farmhouse,” Mugalikar said.
To ward off Covid-19 scare, the district has formed Gram Suraksha Dal or village protection groups, comprising local residents, who are tasked with keeping a tab on vehicles arriving from outside. “The car did not have a transit pass. When the village group had confronted the prison guard at the check post erected at the village’s entry point, he had flashed his identification card,” Mugalikar said.
After one of his sons developed fever a day later, the prison guard first visited a local primary health centre alone. The next day, he and his family visited a government-run rural hospital where their throat swabs were taken and sent for testing at a Nanded laboratory. The initial report, which came Thursday, found the policeman negative for the coronavirus. A subsequent report, confirmed by the public health officials Friday, found his wife and two children were positive.
“We’ve sealed the primary health centre. The rural hospital, too, has been sealed. The positive patients and the policeman have all been isolated at the district’s civil hospital. We’ve declared the village as a containment zone now,” said Mugalikar.
“Contact details of the jail teacher have been shared with the Beed Collector. They’ve also been put under observation. The driver has been quarantined at a facility in Dombivali.”
The Parbhani Collector said he would be writing to Arthur Road jail authorities over the violation. Before Friday, there were only two known cases of coronavirus reported in the district. Even the two patients were outsiders, who had travelled to the district, Mugalikar said.
Parbhani’s Guardian Minister Nawab Malik, when contacted, also expressed displeasure over the development. “How was he allowed to move out of the containment zone? I’ll raise this matter with the authorities and state’s Home Minister (Anil Deshmukh),” Malik said.
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