A quarantine notice outside a house in Delhi.(Ajay Aggarwal/HT file)
A quarantine notice outside a house in Delhi.(Ajay Aggarwal/HT file)

Delhi govt won’t paste posters outside Covid-19 patients’ houses

District officials have been asked to remove posters from outside the residences of Covid-19 patients currently under home isolation – 12,890 individuals, according to Thursday’s health bulletin.
By Abhishek Dey | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 09, 2020 05:13 AM IST

The Delhi administration on Thursday decided to stop putting up posters at the houses of people who are under home isolation after contracting the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), with officials saying they recognised the unnecessary stigma associated with the pathogen, and were confident the doing away with the measure would encourage more people to get tested.

District officials have been asked to remove posters from outside the residences of Covid-19 patients currently under home isolation – 12,890 individuals, according to Thursday’s health bulletin. Monitoring of each home isolation patient, however, will continue as usual, a government official said.

The decision was given the final go-ahead in Tuesday’s meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), which is headed by lieutenant governor Anil Baijal. Chief secretary Vijay Dev on Wednesday communicated the directions to all district magistrates and chief surveillance officials in 11 revenue districts, a second government official said.

“At this point, people are quite aware of Covid-19. We have intensified our awareness drives. The decision to do away with posters is aimed at reducing hesitation among people. It happens because there is a stigma attached to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), Dev told HT.

“This move should improve the efficiency of the government’s strategy to fight Covid-19 and break the chain of transmission sooner. The monitoring of each home isolation patient would continue but there will be no posters,” he added.

On the government’s decision, Delhi minister Kailash Gahlot said: “There is a stigma with the coronavirus disease and posters outside the house amplifies that. By doing away with this, we aim at increased testing. We want more people to get themselves tested without thinking of stigmas.”

The posters that are put up outside the houses of people under home isolation mention the house number of the patient, the date on which the individual tested positive, and the date when the home isolation is supposed to end. The posters carry a disclosure that there is a Covid-19 patient in the house. In effect, they allowed people in the vicinity to ensure their own safety and encouraged them to monitor whether the patient was violating isolation rules.

But there have also been reports that it has led to social stigma in some neighbourhoods.

“The home isolation facility is a great initiative in Covid-19 management. But people in my neighbourhood did discriminate against me and I was left out of resident welfare meetings, people would avoid having conversations, etc. That is unscientific. Doing away with the posters can help several patients from that – at least in a symbolic way,” said a patient who recovered from Covid-19 on July 28 at his residence in west Delhi’s Tilak Nagar.

On September 30, the Delhi high court sought the Delhi government’s response on a petition filed by an advocate that sought the practice of pasting such posters be done away with by citing the right to protect a person’s privacy.

“The government has come across cases in which people hesitated to get tested for Covid-19 fearing stigmatisation. And later the symptoms turned severe. Some of such patients were hospitalised. This is why this step was necessary,” said a second senior government official who asked not to be named.

Delhi on Thursday recorded 2,726 new Covid-19 cases, taking cumulative infections in the city to 300,833 so far. The total number of fatalities linked to the viral illness in the city is 5,653. About 53,322 tests were conducted in the previous 24 hours, with a positivity rate of 5.11%, according to data by the Delhi government.

Experts welcomed the decision.

Dr Jugal Kishore, head of community medicines department in Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, said: “It is a welcome move. Such posters were leading to widespread discrimination of Covid-19 patients. It is the responsibility of the state to protect individuals from such discrimination. Cases can be monitored as efficiently without such posters. Among people in home isolation, awareness about Covid-19 should come from within. Awareness drives and community engagement on part of the government can play a major role.”

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