Quarantine facilities across the country crumbling apart show findings

Most quarantine centers suffer from overcrowding, poor hygiene standards and lack of food and water

LockdownImage Courtesy:timesofindia

One day short of completing the 4th phase of the Covid-19 lockdown, India still seems a long way from conquering the Covid-19 beast. According to the Central government, as on May 26, a total of 22.81 lakh people were in quarantine facilities all over the country.

In Maharashtra, the number of people currently in home quarantine is 535,467 and those in institutional quarantine is 35,967. In Gujarat, a total of 482, 434 people are in quarantine – 471,003 in home quarantine, 10,732 in government facilities and 699 in private facilities. In Bihar, those in quarantine stand at 2.1 lakh, in Uttar Pradesh – 3.6 lakh, in Chhattisgarh – 1.86 lakh, in Odisha – 1.18 lakh, 88,536 in Jharkhand, 13,941 in Assam and 1.32 lakh in West Bengal.

The authorities are yet to enhance testing measures and streamline the methods of transportation of migrants back to their villages. Now, with the number of infections surging, the authorities are finding it difficult to operate their quarantine centers efficiently and provide people admitted to them with basic facilities like hygiene and nutritious food.

Media reports about abysmal quarantine facilities

If one goes through the innumerable media reports on the matter, it will be apparent that people are fleeing quarantine centers, especially those from the underprivileged sections citizens who are lodged in facilities provided by the state government, alleging they are treated like second-class citizens and untouchables who struggle for food, water, clean restrooms and basic medical care. These reports highlight how the quarantine facilities are not upto the mark, especially in terms of food and sanitation.

A fortnight ago, over 100 migrants in Latehar, Jharkhand escaped from a quarantine centre citing poor facilities there, The Times of India reported.

At a quarantine centre in Sheikhpura, Bihar, twelve migrants, including two women fell critically ill after having dinner there, The Week reported.

In Bihar’s Madhepura, nine migrants were booked under Section 188 of the IPC after they allegedly changed their quarantine centre without the consent of local authorities. They had complained that the quarantine center they were kept at lacked basic facilities like water and electricity, ANI reported.

Returnee migrant labourers lodged at the Dhubri River Port mass quarantine centre in Assam protested that they were given only food and not provided any items of daily use, The Telegraph India reported.

In Chhattisgarh, three girls, including two infants died in three separate quarantine centers across the State. Officials said that two of the deaths of an 18-month old and three-month-old caused due to asphyxiation while the children were being fed. A four-month old who passed away too was said to be ‘severely malnourished’, The Indian Express reported.

In another incident, around 33 people at the quarantine center in Beswargaon Nursing Training Centre in Kokrajhar, Assam, tried to flee alleging lack of facilities, East Mojo reported.

Sabrang India’s findings

In light of these reports, Sabrang India spoke to various migrants who have now safely returned home and are in / have been discharged from various quarantine centers across the country. This is what they had to say.

Parmanand Rana from Odisha who was in a quarantine centre in Balangir district said, “We were about 40 people quarantined in a school in the village. There were three bathrooms, but two were dirty, so we used to use only one. We were provided with beds and food. We got food – rice, dal and a vegetable, twice a day – lunch at 12 noon and dinner and around 8 PM. We were also provided breakfast in the morning and tea between meals. The centre is quite clean, though there are no dustbins. At the start, there was a lot of problem regarding water. There was no water to wash hands or to drink. We didn’t even have sanitizers. No doctors visit regularly, but our Covid-19 test has been done and we are now waiting for our results.”

A migrant from Jharkhand requesting anonymity said, “I was sent to a quarantine centre in Barkagaon in Jharkhand when I returned from Mumbai. We were all from one village and were 32 of us. We didn’t face any problem at the quarantine centre at all. The centre was huge and there was space for recreation as well. The beds, food, mosquito nets, etc. all in place when we went there.”

On the condition of anonymity, another migrant from West Bengal’s Birbhum district told us, “When I returned from Mumbai, I went to the police station in the village. The quarantine center there was full and we did wait there for two days. There were some delays in food getting delivered to us and so we a group of 10 – 12 of us volunteered to quarantine at a school in the village. There, however, we had to make our own arrangements for food and other facilities as the government couldn’t provide it to us. The school was cleaned by the villagers and handed over to us and thereafter for 14 days, we maintained the cleanliness in the premises. We have no issues with the government because we know it is trying its best. There were a lot of people who came to the state in the past few days and the government was trying to provide for everybody. Plus, Cyclone Amphan made matters worse. It is still raining continuously here and that is why the delays took place at the start.”

Laxman Prasad from Jharkhand said, “I spent only two days at the government quarantine center. The doctor conducted check-ups and declared us healthy. At the start there were some lapses in the facilities. We weren’t getting proper food at the center at the start due to the number of people there. Hence, we requested for home quarantine and were granted permission for the same.”

A migrant from Odisha who completed his mandatory 14-quarantine at the Biripali Panchayat High School in the Biripali village, said“We were 20 people at the quarantine center. The government has provided us everything through the Panchayat. There are 4 toilets and the facility is clean and well maintained. We’re provided two meals, apart from breakfast and snacks. The mukhiya of the village has made arrangements for the cleaning of the facility. We didn’t face any problem at the center.”

In March, there were a litany of complaints against civic-run Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai which was the first isolation facility in Mumbai where patients complained of filthy conditions, broken and soiled bathrooms and no water. At the time, BMC Chief Pravin Pardeshi had told The Times of India, “We are revamping facilities at the hospital. It is mentally stressful to be alone in quarantine, so we are providing TV and magazines to patients to make them feel better.” The BMC also had plans to rope in a private agency to look after the cleaning requirements at the centre.

The same publication had reported about an Air India Pilot couple who had alleged that the Seven Hills Hospital where they were put in quarantine, wasn’t following WHO guidelines. They alleged that they were not asked basic questions about their health, there were no gloves, no sanitizers, no N95 or triple layer masks at the hospital and the whole area including the common washrooms was not disinfected. At the time, a doctor of the hospital had said that the couple could’ve chosen to stay in a hotel-based quarantine instead of getting admitted to a public facility. Dr. Mohan Joshi, in-charge of Seven Hills, said that people in quarantine didn’t need to be attended to regularly, as they were asymptomatic. He had told TOI, “Regular monitoring is done for patients in isolation who have symptoms.”

Centre’s guidelines for quarantine

According to the guidelines for quarantine facilities issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, each facility must have:

1.       Strategic entry and exit points to prevent and control infection in the facility

2.       Medical doctors and other health care staff needs to be available for routine examination

3.       Housekeeping staff should be made available

4.       Availability of security personnel should be ensured

5.       Rooms with an in house capacity of 5 to 10 beds

6.       Potable water

7.       Disposable and pre-packed food needs to be served to quarantine persons

8.       Personal toiletries/ towel/ blanket/ pillow with covers/electric kettle, room heater and water dispenser may be provided to each person depending on availability.

However, two months later, the problem still seems to persist. A most recent report by The Indian Express speaks about 53-year-old Deepak Hate, a constable, who passed away merely hours after being discharged from a Covid Care Centre (CCC) which is earmarked for asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

In the wake of these findings and reports, perhaps the state and central governments need to revisit their testing guidelines apart from conducting strict inspections of quarantine facilities across the country.


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