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Recovered, Mumbai, Pune coronavirus cases return home to cheers by neighbours

Maharashtra's first positive cases, they finally got the second result confirming them negative and ending their 14-day isolation, at 5.30 am Wednesday.

Written by Laxman Singh , Tabassum Barnagarwala , Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: March 26, 2020 10:22:58 am
The Awatis were discharged on Wednesday; daughter expected back home soon.

AMIDST reports of coronavirus suspects facing harassment in several parts of the country, neighbours in Pune and Mumbai joined hands to welcome home Maharashtra’s first COVID-19 patients.

Jivandhar, 51, and Prashanti Awati, 44, spent a sleepless night Tuesday at Pune’s Naidu Hospital waiting for an all-clear. The state’s first positive cases, they finally got the second result confirming them negative and ending their 14-day isolation, at 5.30 am Wednesday. They had tested positive on March 10. On Wednesday evening, their daughter Ankita too was discharged.

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Delighted to be back home on the day of Gudi Padwa, an emotional Prashanti, 44, said, “Can you imagine the sense of relief? Since Tuesday evening, our bags were packed.”

As the couple stepped out, people from chawls around Naidu Hospital lined up along the road to wave at the ambulance that took them home, escorted by a police van. “It was heartwarming,” said Jivandhar, a senior manager with a Pune firm.

When they reached their society on Sinhagad Road, another surprise awaited them. Said Jivandhar, “The society has 350 flats across seven buildings. Several came to their balconies, clapping and cheering.” Added Prashanti, “Some brought groceries, others offered to get food packets.”

In Mumbai, a similar reception awaited the city’s first two cases, a 70-year-old and his 69-year-old wife, who tested positive on March 11 and were discharged from Kasturba Hospital on Tuesday. The couple had travelled along with the Awatis to Dubai last month.

When the two reached their building in Andheri, four neighbours carried the 69-year-old in a plastic chair into the lift, and later to her second-floor apartment. Said the husband, “She was not able to walk, she has a stomach infection.” Society members also had dinner ready for the two.

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A domestic help who had tested positive for coronavirus was among those cleared Tuesday night in Mumbai. The 68-year-old, whose family staying in a slum had faced much harassment following the case, said, “I hope people will now realise that this disease can be cured.”

She said one of her employers, who tested positive after returning from the US on March 17 and who is believed to have infected her, came to visit her in hospital. “He said he was sorry. But I told him he did not do it deliberately.” The 68-year-old said the hospital took good care, and answered all her doubts. “From day one that I was admitted, there was not much change in my health,” she said.

The Pune family and Mumbai couple were part of a group of 40 people who went to Dubai last month, of whom 15 tested positive. The Awatis had gone to mark their 25th anniversary.

The group returned on March 1, and the Awatis got themselves tested at the municipal corporation-run Naidu Hospital after Jivandhar developed symptoms. Apart from the family, a fellow passenger from Yavatmal and a driver of a taxi hired by them tested positive on March 10. Now all are negative and have been discharged.

Once news came of the Pune family being positive, the aged Mumbai couple, who had no symptoms, decided to get themselves admitted in Kasturba Hospital’s isolation ward along with four others from their tour group.

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Incidentally, the Andheri couple’s two children are also under home quarantine — son in Singapore and daughter in the US, where they stay. A medical officer in Andheri West, Dr Gulnar Khan, said her staff visited several buildings in the Andheri neighbourhood to screen people after the couple tested positive. Their close contacts, including their help, a medical store owner and his brother, and their driver, all tested negative.

Officials have advised home quarantine for another 14 days to the aged couple as precaution. With his wife developing a stomach infection towards the end of their hospital stay, the 70-year-old called up his grocer Wednesday morning to stock up on tissue paper, disinfectants and milk, and worried about his dusty home. They came to know of the lockdown only after they came out, he said. “We have grocery for a day. I can’t step out.”

The domestic help’s son said the discrimination they had faced in the slum they live in shocked him. “Everybody stopped talking to us. Milk vendors stopped supplying to us,” said the 43-year old, who tested negative along with other members of the family.

The Jammu district administration reported that two of its patients had recovered completely, and one discharged. In Kerala’s Ernakulam, a British national administered HIV anti-retroviral drugs for coronavirus infection also tested negative.

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