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A year on, family of India’s ‘first’ virus victim awaits Covid-positive report, wants closure

Kalburgi resident Qazi Muhammad Hussain Siddiqui died on 10 March 2020. Two days later, the Karnataka health department announced he died of Covid.

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Bengaluru: It’s been over a year since 76-year-old Qazi Muhammad Hussain Siddiqui, resident of Karnataka’s Kalburgi district, died due to suspected Covid-19.

The Qazi died on his way to Kalburgi from a private hospital in Hyderabad on 10 March. Two days later, the state health department announced that the Qazi died of Covid — thus making him India’s first Covid victim.

But a year on, Siddiqui’s family claims they are yet to get his Covid-19 positive report or a confirmation about it from the state health authorities.

His son, Qazi Hamid Faisal Siddiqui, claimed his father didn’t die of the deadly virus.

Faisal claimed he stayed with his father at home, along with his wife and two daughters, but none of them contracted the virus. “I was with my father for more than 48 hours,” he said, adding that after his father’s death, he was was kept under observation for eight days from 12 March. 

Faisal’s sister tested positive a day after their father died, but he said she might have contracted the virus from somewhere else.

“It’s true that my sister was helping my father. But I was the one who was with him 24×7. I did not contract the virus. My sister tested positive, but she might have been infected from somewhere else,” he added.

Faisal said they “approached the government officials in the district, including the health department in Kalburgi, several times”. “By June 2020, three months after my father’s death, we gave up as we could not even mourn his death properly,” he added.

Kalburgi, Deputy Commissioner (DC), Sharath told ThePrint the state health department in its report to the government at the time had said that the Qazi had comorbidities and was a patient of asthma and hypertension. Covid samples from the deceased were taken on 9 March, he added.

ThePrint reached Health Minister Dr K. Sudhakar through phone calls and text message for a comment on the matter, but there was no response till the time of publishing this report.

Also read: Centre asks for report after Karnataka Agriculture Minister gets Covid vaccine at home

Hyderabad hospital ‘refused’ treatment

Kalburgi, located in northern Karnataka, was the first district in the country to have announced a complete clampdown after the Qazi’s death.

Explaining how things panned out at the time, Faisal said after his father returned from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia on 29 February, he wasn’t feeling very well. He later developed breathing troubles and fever. On 9 March, the Qazi was taken to a private hospital in the district where, Faisal said, the doctor suspected he had Covid.

According to Faisal, the hospital advised them to take his father either to Solapur or Hyderabad. Following this, they took the Qazi to a private hospital in Hyderabad on the same day, but the hospital allegedly refused to admit him as he showed Covid-like symptoms. The Qazi died enroute Kalburgi on 10 March.

The deceased’s daughter-in-law and Faisal’s wife Dr Aqeela Siddiqui, a practising Unani doctor, told ThePrint that the day her father-in-law passed away, neither the Kalburgi hospital authorities nor the health department said he had died of Covid.

“How did they (health department) come to that conclusion (two days later that he died of Covid)? If they have taken samples, shouldn’t they be telling us and keeping us in the loop? We are still awaiting documents they can produce to show us that he tested positive for the virus,” Aqeela said.

A popular Qazi

The Qazi was quite popular in the area and known to be the go-to man to resolve local civil disputes and matrimonial issues. 

Soon after his return from Saudi, many people met him to seek his blessings, and it is said he may even have hugged a few of his visitors.

This could have been the main cause of the spreading of the infection, local district authorities had told ThePrint at the time.

The family doctor, who treated the Qazi initially, also tested positive and later the district administration had to launch a massive drive to trace and test people, who could have been infected after coming in contact.

The local administration traced 98 persons who came in contact with the Qazi and the doctor. 

Also read: Symptomatic Covid patients drove infection in Karnataka, study finds

‘Want clarity’

Sources in the district health department had told ThePrint at the time that had the Qazi been treated in a government hospital, he could have survived. 

They said the family insisted on taking the Qazi to Hyderabad for better treatment.

“This complicated things and his health deteriorated further,” DC Sharath had told ThePrint earlier.

The family, however, denied the allegation.

“We begged with the Kalburgi hospital authorities to treat our father in Kalburgi itself. But the doctor suspected that my father had Covid, so he told us that they can’t treat him here and asked us to shift him to Solapur or Hyderabad,” said Faisal.

“The doctor forced us, that is why we tried to shift him to Hyderabad. The impression the government has given (of us) is completely false,” Faisal said.

“We want clarity. I have lost my father and I expect some closure on how he passed away,” he added.

(Edited by Debalina Dey)

Also read: ‘Just another battle’ — How 3 100-year-old great grandmothers fought off Covid in Karnataka


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