Police, in PPE, chasing Covid positive robber on loose
A prisoner infected with Covid-19 escaped from the government-run Lok Nayak Hospital last week, becoming one of the men most wanted by Delhi Police after forcing at least six personnel of the department, who had come in contact with him without knowing his medical condition, into self-isolation.
A Delhi Police team from the central district is now chasing the man, whom they want to capture before he spreads the infection. Wearing face shields, gloves and carrying hand sanitisers along with their weapons, the central district officers have been to the house of the fugitive prisoner in north-east Delhi at least twice. On both occasions, the police kept their personal protective equipment (PPE) suits handy so that they could catch him.
Officials privy to the details of the case said that when the man was first arrested from the Rajiv Chowk metro station September 22, no one knew he was Covid-positive. The man, whom police identified as Mehtab Ahmed,33, had travelled at least 10km on a metro train before attempting to steal a passenger’s cell phone; he was caught in the act and handed to the police, who suspect he may have infected other unwary passengers on Delhi Metro premises. Narrating the details of the case, a senior Delhi police officer, who didn’t want to be named, said that on September 22, they received information from a metro passenger who had caught Mehtab red-handed while stealing the passenger’s cell phone.
Police suspect Mehtab was asymptomatic when he entered the metro rail coach and may have passed the temperature checks at thermal scanners at the entry gates.
On the afternoon of September 22, the passenger, Saksham Labania, 19, had boarded the metro at Kashmere Gate and was on his way to Uttam Nagar. Labania said in his statement to the police that when he got off at the Rajiv Chowk station, two persons who were behind him inside the train disembarked at the same time.
“One of them tried to steal my phone. I caught him with the help of others and took him to a police booth near platform number 3 from where he was formally arrested,” Labania wrote in his police statement.
The metro police seized the Oppo A53 phone that Mehtab had stolen and took him to the metro station’s lockup inside the building where he was kept that night. The officer cited above said that until that night no one had a clue that Mehtab was a Covid-19 patient.
“Maybe he (Mehtab) did not know it himself. The following morning when he was taken to Tihar, the jail officers conducted a mandatory Covid test. The test results showed he was Covid-19 positive. Mehtab also complained of body ache and fever, after which he was referred to Lok Nayak hospital. The police team that had come in contact with Mehtab was also informed after which they too have gone into self-isolation,” said the officer.
According to case files, Mehtab was admitted to a Covid-19 ward on the sixth floor of the hospital. Two Delhi police constables were also guarding him because Mehtab was a prisoner from Tihar jail. According to the FIR filed by police, on the afternoon of September 23, Mehtab entered the bathroom, removed the window grille and fled from the hospital. Police registered a case. A police officer from the IP Estate police station, whose team is now on the lookout for the fugitive, said: “We have been to his house in Shastri Park twice and told his family members about Mehtab’s condition. Not only has he committed a crime by fleeing police custody but he is also carrying the virus and must be spreading it wherever he is hiding. This is the first such case of a Covid prisoner that we are handling... our team wore a face shield and gloves. Our PPE kits were also ready in the car.”
HT contacted Delhi Metro Rail Corporation for a response on how the Covid-19 patient had managed to travel for over 10km with other passengers. DMRC executive director Anuj Dayal said: “Only asymptomatic passengers are allowed inside.” A Tihar jail officer said they are confident Mehtab did not spread the virus inside the prison because all new prisoners are made to undergo the mandatory Covid-19 test, and are allowed inside with others only afterwards. “There are eight active cases among prisoners in Tihar but all these eight are of new prisoners. Mehtab did not spread it inside prison but he must be doing so wherever he is hiding,” the officer said.
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