New Delhi: At least 73 first information reports (FIRs) have been filed across Delhi against those violating home isolation guidelines amid the latest Covid-19 surge in the city.
Several people are also being moved to Covid-19 care or quarantine centres and issued strict warnings to prevent them from turning ‘super-spreaders’.
An order was issued in the third week of November, after a meeting of the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), to take the “strictest possible action” against those violating the home isolation guidelines.
“Patients under home isolation should be regularly evaluated and physically visited by health teams to ensure proper adherence to isolation standards,” the order said.
Taking note of instances where coronavirus patients under home isolation were found not following the norms, Delhi district authorities were directed to identify more human resources such as civil defence volunteers and municipal sanitary inspectors and deploy them to enforce Covid-appropriate behaviour.
District officials have been registering cases under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (disobedience to an order by government servants) against all these alleged violators. It carries a maximum punishment of one month or fine of Rs 200 or both.
As of Wednesday afternoon, as many as 18,423 people were under home isolation, according to the latest health bulletin of Delhi government. Surveillance officers and chief district medical officers that ThePrint spoke to said it was difficult dealing with local residents who haven’t been taking the home isolation module as seriously as they should.
Covid-19 patients in Delhi are sent to 14-17 days of home isolation, during which teams of the district health department are supposed to periodically check on their health and location — both through phone calls and physical visits.
‘Don’t want to skip work’
Additional District Magistrate (ADM), South-West, Rakesh Dahiya said many residents asked to be in home isolation were found to be stepping out.
“Many of them feel they cannot afford to skip work, not realising that they are putting their employers also at risk if they are Covid-19 positive or came in contact with a positive patient,” Dahiya told ThePrint.
The district has registered eight FIRs under Section 188 of the IPC in the past fortnight ever since there was a spurt in Covid-19 cases here, he added.
In the West district, where officials categorise the violation of home isolation guidelines as a “nuisance”, 15 FIRs have been registered against people meant to be in home isolation and those found distributing wedding invites or visiting markets.
“The pattern that we have noticed during surprise inspections is that ironically these violations are more common among the lower strata or in rural areas although cases among them are lesser here,” ADM, West, Dharmendra Singh said.
Opposition parties in Delhi, however, have raised concerns over the lodging of FIRs. Talking to ThePrint, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said taking such insensitive crackdown measures was similar to the Narendra Modi government’s decision to announce lockdown without warning the migrant labourers.
“It is insensitive on part of not just the political leadership but also the government machinery to ignore the ground realities,” he said. When asked for an alternative, he said it was important to come up with out-of-the-box solutions to facilitate home isolation instead of threatening people, especially the poor, with criminal cases against them.
Some of the stakeholders say livelihoods are at stake. Shalin, a 33-year-old domestic worker in Greater Kailash, said she could not afford to not step out if she had to ensure a living for a family of four members.
“My husband works at RML Hospital and he obviously comes in contact with Covid-19 positive patients, so once he was asked to quarantine,” she said. “Since he came in contact with us, we were also asked to not step out for 14 days, but I get my salary on the basis of the number of days I work, so how could I not get out.”
Violators across the city
South district was among the first to start registering cases against violators, with some FIRs registered as early as in June. DCP South Atul Thakur told ThePrint that as of 30 November, the South district has recorded 50 cases against people for violating home isolation guidelines.
In the North-West district, however, the focus is on conducting surprise inspections and counselling residents to stay indoors or be shifted to quarantine centres. District Magistrate Cheshta Yadav said she hasn’t received any major complaint on this aspect from any of the SDMs in the district.
It is a similar case in the South-East district. “I don’t want to book criminal cases against residents until I am absolutely convinced that they won’t adhere to guidelines after they’re given warnings or moved to our Covid care centres or quarantine centres in the South-East district,” DM Vishvendra Singh said.
Surveillance officer, South-East District, Dr Stuti said at least 45-50 people found violating home isolation guidelines have been shifted to quarantine centres here.
According to protocol laid down by the Centre, which is being followed by Delhi, a Covid-19 patient under home isolation is considered discharged after 10 days of the onset of symptoms, if the person has no fever for three consecutive days.
Thereafter, the patient is advised to isolate at home and self-monitor for seven more days. There is no need for testing after the home isolation period is over, but every discharged person must receive a fitness certificate from the district officials, state the guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Health on 2 July.