Testing Positive for COVID-19 Exposed Us to the ‘Delhi Disease’

Testing Positive for COVID-19 Exposed Us to the ‘Delhi Disease’
14/10/2020, by , in Home Page Articles

This story first appeared in The Quint

A Delhi household tested positive for COVID-19 & exposed them to gaps in government’s policy to deal with pandemic.

We tried our best before being defeated.

For the past eight months, our household of eight (husband, wife, two daughters, two live-in domestic employees, and two dogs) had been following all the instructions that the central and state governments had been giving us. In addition, we looked up various national and international experts for advice. Our family became a butt of jokes from friends and neighbours for being “paranoid”. Nothing, however, could avert the inevitable. All our efforts could accomplish was buy us some time.

COVID-19 infected five of us. And our ‘positive’ results were just the tip of this iceberg which I’d like to call the Delhi Disease.

COVID-19 Comes Home Uninvited

The moment my husband tested positive, we did everything that the government expected us to. We sent the dogs to a kennel, informed the neighbours, quarantined ourselves, and awaited further instructions from authorities concerned. Much later in the day, we answered several phone calls to confirm our address. The next day, some auxiliary heath workers wanted us to sign home-isolation forms. Later, a poster was put up on our door announcing the husband’s COVID-19 status.

In the next two days, the husband was joined by more of us. It was utter chaos. Mind you, we got ourselves tested out of our own volition. Our household staff (let’s call them R&D) had no symptoms but their RT-PCR test results came out positive. It made no difference to our household situation, since we had already started a strict quarantine and were almost sure that all of us in the household were going to catch the infection. After all, this virus is sneaky. You can pass it to others even before you know of its presence in your body.

And this is when our real nightmare began.

The ‘Delhi Disease’ of No Planning, No Coordination

We were bombarded by phone calls that were neither necessary nor helpful. I’m sure the authorities were doing it to keep us comfortable, but it had the opposite impact.

Consider the following:

  • COVID-19 patients receive around 10-12 phone calls everyday from different agencies (municipality, DM office, ICMR, and others) seeking the EXACT SAME INFORMATION
  • Add to this the automated calls to check ‘availability’ to take these calls
  • Now, imagine a household with FOUR positive cases at the same time and calculate the number of calls received by the only caregiver

Each time the cellphone rang, it gave us bouts of anxiety because no matter what we said in response to the questions asked by call-centre executives, they repeated their lines, and talking worsened our respiratory condition and drained us. The executives did not understand what being ‘asymptomatic’ meant. They insisted on pro forma lines.

And then there was the incessant ringing of the doorbell. For each patient, the process of signing of forms, putting up of posters etc, was carried out at different times and by different people.

As if we hadn’t had our fill of the absurd, one healthcare worker forgot to take a photograph of the poster she put up and her supervisor refused to pay her. She could only get paid if we went out of the house to click a picture and sent it to her. That involved some more phone calls and entirely avoidable physical movement.

Did it strike nobody that it was ONE address that had more than one COVID-19 patient? Or does economy of time, efforts and resources mean nothing to anyone even in the national capital?

Let me share, dear reader, that my house happens to be only a stone’s throw away from the official residence of CM Arvind Kejriwal.

Did it occur to nobody that address-wise data could be consolidated, and just ONE person could make ONE daily call to collect information and then share the same across? This lack of planning and coordination is what I call the Delhi Disease. Authorities authorities everywhere, no accountability, just hoodwink! With due apology to ST Coleridge.

Have Governments Given Up on Contact Tracing?

The enthusiasm of phone calls, however, was missing in following all other protocols. No special arrangements were made for our house to collect garbage for the first ten days. We had started sealing our trash very carefully and it was being collected by our regular cleaning staff of the society. I could not explain the pointlessness of his arrival when an MCD employee came on the 10th day to empty our bins. He had been instructed to visit our house only the same day.

The same evening, two Delhi Police constables came to put the “DO NOT CROSS” ribbons at our front door. Again, a futile gesture that was past its expiry date.

No efforts, whatsoever, were made for contact tracing. Nobody called or visited to do that. We had, however, informed the hospital where my husband had been going for his physiotherapy, the eye surgeon that our daughter consulted, and the vet surgeon we take our dogs to about our COVID-19 status to caution them.

Ironically, the physiotherapy centre called the husband once to ask why he had missed his sessions. Clearly, the hospital authorities—despite acknowledging our email—forgot to inform their physiotherapy department. I shudder as I type this.

COVID-19 and Communication

As of now, we remain in this self-imposed quarantine as we have no idea what procedure is to be followed for declaring ourselves COVID-free. When should we count our 17 days from? From the onset of symptoms in the first patient? From the day of their test result (as mentioned in the poster), or the day the asymptomatic patients got their positive report? None of the tele-callers can deal with this query, or anything that is not there in their ‘syllabus’.

But why blame them when even the highest echelons of state and central governments are incommunicado when it comes to our COVID-19 strategy? We brought many issues to the notice of the state and central authorities through official (email) and unofficial (via twitter, friends, family and acquaintances) channels but received no response.

The household is trudging back to communicating with each other face to face, but normalcy remains a mirage. How long it will take us to be normal, nobody knows.

Link to original story

About Nishtha Gautam

Nishtha Gautam is Opinions Editor at The Quint. Before transitioning to full-time journalism, she taught English Literature in University of Delhi for 8 years. She observes literary and cultural space with keenness, in tandem with her interest in politics and foreign affairs.