India’s largest Covid-19 quarantine cluster operates out of Delhi hotels
From just three occupants on its first day, Delhi’s paid quarantine facilities in Aerocity, near the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), now has more than 600 people, making it the largest quarantine cluster facility in India, the city administration said on Wednesday.
Opened from March 17, the paid quarantine rooms were first offered in three luxury hotels of Aerocity. But later, the demand surged and the Delhi government roped in more hotels to meet the requirement. As on Wednesday, a total of 602 persons were using 492 rooms in five luxury hotels, records with the city’s revenue department stated. The hotels include Red Fox, IBIS, Aloft, Holiday Inn, and Pride Plaza.
The government had first arranged 182 rooms and the initial response was lukewarm. “But, the occupancy really picked up on days three and four, gauging which we arranged for a total of 525 rooms in Aerocity out of which 385 are single rooms and 107 are double rooms. This is now the largest quarantine facility (paid or unpaid) in the country, beating the cluster facility available in Jaisalmer where about 500 people can be accommodated,” said Tanvi Garg, district magistrate (new Delhi).
The demand particularly surged after the Delhi government, on March 19, decided to waive the GST and offer the rooms at a flat rate of ₹3,100 per night. The rate includes breakfast, lunch and dinner; two bottles of mineral water per day; tea and coffee and other facilities such as WiFi and TV.
A day in the room
Wednesday was 27-year-old Sudipto Chakraborty’s third day in the facility at hotel Park Plaza.
“The arrangements are good. The food is delicious, except that it is sometimes delayed - like today. They keep it outside the room on the floor,” Chakraborty, who returned from Miami in the United States on March 22, told HT over phone.
Food is served only in disposal plates and clothes of the quarantined guests are laundered separately. “But there is no clarity if the cost also includes laundry. My 14-day quarantine ends on April 5, but I might have to stay longer since there is no way I can go to my hometown in Assam under the lockdown,” he said.
Describing the seventh floor of the hotel, which is dedicated to those in quarantine, Chakraborty said it is covered in green biodegradable plastic sheets to avoid the virus being trapped in the carpet.
“Yesterday (Tuesday), I got a call from a psychologist. She asked me how was I doing and acknowledged how lonely it can get being in a room all alone for two weeks. She suggested I watch movies and talk to those who I miss. It felt nice,” he said.
Those in quarantine are not allowed to get out of their rooms. When asked how he spends his days inside the room, Chakraborty said he does mild exercises in the morning and watches movies on his phone most of the time since the hotel television has limited channels and no live streaming subscriptions.
Every hotel has a medical team that operate in three shifts to ensure 24-hour presence.
However, a common problem which Chakraborty and another person in quarantine also complained about is inadequate cleaning of the rooms.
“My room, including the bathroom has not been cleaned ever since I came on Sunday. In the corridor too, used food boxes are not picked up for hours together,” he said.
Sidharth Tewari, who is in quarantine at the Red Fox hotel also faced the same problem and took to Twitter to vent his frustration.
“Quarantine facilities in Delhi need to be monitored daily to ensure the virus does not spread. In Delhi (Hotel RedFox - quarantine facility) rooms have not been cleaned in 4 days! There is a severe shortage of staff as per hotel,” he wrote.
Recalling his arrival in Delhi on Sunday, Chakraborty said it took him “gruelling 12-hours” of airport procedures, followed by a “hotel hopping” to finally arrive at the Park Plaza hotel.
“They first took us to The IBIS on a government bus, but it was full. Then there were several elderly who were fighting and pleading with the authorities to let them go home. Many were refusing to be quarantined,” he said.
Additional district magistrate (south) D Karthikeyan said, “We do not have any new passengers to be quarantined since all flight operations are suspended since March 22 night,” he said.
A functionary at the IBIS hotel said it has dedicated its sixth floor to quarantine rooms and those on the floor have to wear personal protection kits at all times. Dedicated entry and exit routes, including lifts and stairs, have been given to the guests as well as the staff attending to them, he said.
The passengers who arrived at the Delhi airport from other countries had to undergo mandated quarantine and were divided into three categories on the basis of the severity of their symptoms by the Airport Health Organization (APHO).
While category A comprised the high-risk passengers, requiring mandatory segregation and isolation, who were directly sent to hospitals, those under category B posed a moderate risk and needed to be shifted to dedicated state government’s quarantine facility.
Those availing the government’s quarantine facilities, including the ones at hotels, were category B passengers.
Passengers in category C, with low risk, need to be kept under home quarantine and are monitored.