by Khalid Bashir Gura
SRINAGAR: The floor beneath the feet of one of the Kashmiri quarantined at Jaisalmer slipped away when the health authorities at the facility declared nine people positive for Coronavirus including three Kashmiris. The facility, officially called wellness facility created under Operation Namaste, is an armed forces infrastructure where most of the people flown from Iran stand quarantined.
The nine people who tested positive are among the 484 Indian rescued from Iran. They were flown to the facility in Jaisalmer in batches between March 15 and March 17.
The quarantines who have come up with a negative test want to leave the facility as their quarantine has ended. In the wake of new revelations, a new circle of quarantine has started.
“The first mistake they (hosts) made is that they made our stay amidst pilgrims,” one of the quarantined students said on phone. “Proper segregation which we requested wasn’t done. We were students and we had already quarantined ourselves in Iran. But now we are in a panic.”
Now 3 more test +ve in Jaisalmer quarantine, all pilgrims, all Kashmiris. Yesterday 8-9 had tested +ve, all pilgrims from Maharashtra. Someone has been a false —ve or carrier. And it's baffling that different risk groups — students and pilgrims — were put in same quarantine. https://t.co/RFp7jeipMI
— Syed Zafar Mehdi (@mehdizafar) March 31, 2020
As per protocol the high risk and low-risk groups can’t be quarantined together. Authorities at the wellness centre, however, had their own SOP at work.
All the positives until now were asymptomatic and negative as the quarantined underwent a test on a daily basis. “Because of this asymptomatic factor with a potential viral load carrier, there is a fear in everyone and everyone is scared now of each other,” another student, also quarantined at the facility said.
The Kashmiri quarantines at Jaisalmer were evacuated from Iran last month. Happy with the new environment, they were excited as the 14-day quarantine was ending on March 31. But as they were preparing to leave with their bags zipped, the officials at Jaisalmer said, “Nine people have tested positive.” The officials have extended the quarantine period to another 14 days, much to the annoyance of all.
“My heart skipped a beat,” said one of the quarantines visibly sad at the news. The three positive cases, however, are from the pilgrims’ lot. All of them are above 50 years of age, the officials told the students.
My parents are worried now, especially my mother. “She frequently calls and cries.”
The quarantined Kashmiris have made a renewed request to the facility managers that segregation must take place especially now when nobody knows who stands infected while living with nine virus carriers.
One of the best facilities for quarantine, the inmates said they are happy. The only worry is that a new cycle has started. “What if after 14 days, another heart-breaking news emerges,” one student said. “That is the real worry.”
Currently, the armed forces operate six quarantine facilities at Hindan, Manesar, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Ghatkopar and Chennai.
The students and the pilgrims were flown from Tehran amid persistent demands by the Indian’s stranded there. Authorities collected their swab samples and later flew only those who were negative. There are more than 270 positive cases; mostly Qom pilgrims from Ladakh, of whom, officials in Kargil confirmed three have died. Of 44220 deaths worldwide, Iran accounts for 3036 deaths, so far. It reported 47593 cases, of whom 15473 have recovered fully.
Efforts to get the confirmation from the facility managers failed. However, The Hindustan Times quoted two officials revealing to it that 10 people, all evacuees from Iran, have tested positive for Covid-19 at the army’s quarantine facilities in Rajasthan. Of them, one was in Jodhpur and nine at Jaisalmer.
“Out of these nine people, three tested positive on Tuesday, while six more had tested positive on Monday,” The Economic Times reported. “If a person tests positive for the virus that person is isolated at a tertiary care hospital near the quarantine facility. However, these fresh cases of coronavirus at these facilities has raised a fear of a possible contagion, because people of one batch are living and eating together.”
Officials in Srinagar confirmed the reports.