COVID-19: 69-year-old woman dies in Sarita Vihar basti; tests positive for Coronavirus

This raises fears of community transfer as Shakuntala Devi and her husband hardly stepped out of colony this month as they are not employed. She would step out only to buy diabetes medicine<b></b>

People living in Rajasthani Camp in Sarita Vihar (Screen grab from the video)
People living in Rajasthani Camp in Sarita Vihar (Screen grab from the video)

Ashlin Mathew

A 69-year-old woman who died in Rajasthani Camp in Sarita Vihar tested positive for Coronavirus on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear whether it was diabetes or the virus which caused her death.

On Tuesday afternoon, Shakuntala Devi fainted near her house in Rajasthani Camp, which has more than 5,000 people living in close quarters. She was immediately taken to Apollo Hospital, as it is the nearest to the camp. “We think she died on the way to the hospital. As soon as we reached the hospital, the doctors checked her and said they would take her blood for testing. When the blood test result came on Wednesday evening, it showed that she had tested positive for Covid-19,” said Arun, the Pradhan of the camp.

She would step out of the colony only to buy her diabetes medicine. She hardly stepped out of the colony this whole month as she was not employed anywhere. Her husband Sispal also spent most of his time within the Colony. “Both of them are not working anywhere. They have two sons and three daughters. One of their daughters was helping with the expenses and rent at home. None of their children lives in the colony. Their daughters come once in a few weeks, but after the lockdown, it has been difficult for them also to come,” explained Arun.

With Shakuntala Devi having tested positive, fear had gripped the camp. On Wednesday, all of them refused to come out to even take the cooked food that was supposed to be delivered. “We shouldn’t have done that I agree. We had to call the driver of the vehicle and ask him to take it back. We couldn’t convince anyone to come out. Everyone is afraid that they will contract the virus. Today, until now no food has come. People will either die of the virus or hunger”. We are all worried because we live in close quarters and use the common bathroom. If she had contracted the virus, it means several of us will also test positive,” underscored Arun.

COVID-19: 69-year-old woman dies in Sarita Vihar basti; tests positive for Coronavirus

The hospital informed the local police station about the matter and on Wednesday no one turned up to check. On Thursday afternoon, two constables from the Sarita Vihar police station reached the cluster. “We were informed by the hospital and we went there on Thursday. We have taken down the names of the family members and those of her immediate contacts. We have asked the people in the locality to remain in their homes. We have given the details to the sub-divisional magistrate and now he has to give instructions on containment,” said Ajab Singh, Station House Officer, Sarita Vihar police station.

Sarita Vihar SDM PR Kaushik said he was not the appropriate person to comment on the situation. “Please call the appropriate person. You are a journalist, so you know who the appropriate person is,” asserted Kaushik. He refused to answer any other question.

The people in the camp are worried as no medical authority has reached the camp for any sanitation drive, distribution of masks. “The government apathy is evident. Only police officers have reached the camp. No medical authorities have. There has been no sanitation drive in the basti and no one has reached the camp to tell them how to clean the food packets which would come. The tragedy of the containment drive is that the police have reached and not the district medical officer who is supposed to lead the operation,” said Dr Animesh Das, president of Indian Federation of Trade Union- Delhi chapter.

Even recently, the joint secretary of the health ministry Lav Agarwal denied that there was any community transmission in the Capital or the country. This was his response even after a random sampling of patients of severe acute respiratory infection found several confirmed positive cases with no foreign travel history or contact with any infected person.

Early in April, AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria had said some hotspots in the country were seeing localised community spread but added that if this was stopped at initial stage, there is nothing to worry about. "Localised community spread has started in a few pockets, and so it is necessary for us to be more vigilant," the AIIMS director had said.

COVID-19: 69-year-old woman dies in Sarita Vihar basti; tests positive for Coronavirus

But the National President, Progressive Medicos & Scientists Forum (PMSF) Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti stated, “The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is adamant on arbitrary criteria for deciding community transfer. Earlier, they said they tested random samples on patients from various places and several turned out negative. Then they said that they are sampling everyone in hospitals and tracing their contacts. Then they said the number of patients whose contacts are not traceable to understand from where they contracted Covid-19 is insignificant. ICMR must be transparent on how they have decided so.”

Bhatti said that when the contacts are not traceable it would mean that community transmission of the virus has begun. “ICMR needs to tell us how and what their sampling strategy is. They need to do more tests. This is the time to be transparent and not hide details,” underscored Bhatti.

A week ago, at Rajasthani Camp less than 600 packets of food were sent when there are at least 5,500 people living in the cluster. Additionally, the packaged food which was sent was spoilt and had to be thrown away.

The national capital has recorded 2,178 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 90 deaths, according to the Health Ministry. On April 22, Delhi registered 75 new cases in 24 hours, including 6 policemen from Jahangirpuri police station.

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