On Tuesday, a 58-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19 in Chhattisgarh’s Surajpur — the first confirmed case in the district. In the rapid test, nine others quarantined at the same shelter camp were suspected to have been infected.
A 10th person suspected to have contracted the infection was housed at a quarantine camp in Jashpur district.
Both were green zone districts, and all 12 people had arrived, along many others in a group of around 400, from quarantine centres in Rajnandgaon district on April 17.
“We have sent all patients (man who tested positive and those suspected to have been infected) to AIIMS-Raipur. I was contacted by the Rajnandgaon collector and we made arrangements for 106 people they sent to our district,” Surajpur district collector Deepak Soni said on Wednesday.
This transfer of nearly 400 people to decongest Rajnandgaon quarantine centres — the district has 58 quarantine camps, housing nearly 9,000 people — has raised a question of whether people should be allowed to travel during their mandatory quarantine period.
While Rajnandgaon collector J P Maurya said the people sent out had completed the required 15-day quarantine period, state Additional Chief Secretary Subrat Sahu said they had been there for hardly a “few” days.
Sahu, however, said: “It is the state’s (government’s) prerogative where people are kept. They were quarantined in Rajnandgaon, were transported by our vehicles, and kept in the quarantine facility in (different) districts. It doesn’t break the quarantine.”
According to a Health Department official, quarantine is meant to restart after every instance of travel.
The man who has tested positive in Surajpur worked as a labourer in Maharashtra’s Wardha district and is a resident of Jharkhand. He was quarantined in Rajnandgaon on April 5 and was moved to Jajawal in Surajpur on April 17. The same day, four groups of about 100 people each were transferred from Rajnandgaon to quarantine centres in Jashpur, Surajpur, Koriya and Raigadh districts.
Explaining why he ordered transfer of so many people to quarantine centres in other districts, Maurya said he decided to make small groups to ensure containment after more than 400 people congregated at one camp. “Quarantine centres work in theory, but in reality everyone wants to go home. We took the decision of sending them to other districts after they started posing law and order problems,” he said.
Maurya also said he had written to senior bureaucrats in the state to help him transfer some migrant workers from Rajnandgaon’s quarantine centres. “We also requested the (Union) Home Ministry to allow us to transport migrant workers to their states (of origin), but it was denied,” he said.