A Bihar government official said this version, if accurate, reflected gaps in the surveillance mechanism for coronavirus.(AFP)
A Bihar government official said this version, if accurate, reflected gaps in the surveillance mechanism for coronavirus.(AFP)

IPS officer, wife skip Covid-19 quarantine at Delhi, traced to Patna hotel

The couple, who had landed at Delhi airport, were traced to a hotel in Bihar capital Patna the next day and told to go into quarantine at the state-run Patna Medical College hospital.
By Ruchir Kumar | Hindustan Times, Patna
UPDATED ON MAR 16, 2020 07:24 PM IST

An Indian Police Service (IPS) officer from Jharkhand cadre, posted in Ranchi, and his wife, a doctor, skipped the 14-day quarantine period mandated on account of coronavirus on their return from Italy last week.

The couple, who had landed at Delhi airport, were traced to a hotel in Bihar capital Patna the next day and told to go into quarantine at the state-run Patna Medical College hospital.

This, people familiar with the matter said, became possible only after Bihar government officials reached out to the Jharkhand police brass with a request to intervene.

The IPS officer denied accusations that he had acted irresponsibly or that he had used his clout to circumvent the surveillance at Delhi airport when he landed on 13 March with his wife, a Patna doctor.

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He insisted that they did not need to undergo quarantine because they did not have any symptoms of coronavirus.

“My wife and I were asked to fill up a form, which we did, and then screened through the thermal scanner at Delhi airport. The officials there did not feel the need to quarantine us and allowed us to go. After that we passed through the immigration and came out of the airport,” the senior police officer told Hindustan Times.

A Bihar government official said this version, if accurate, reflected gaps in the surveillance mechanism for coronavirus.

Travellers from Italy have been on the radar of the Indian government for days, particularly given that it has the highest number of coronavirus cases anywhere in the world outside of China. At last count, Italy has had more than 24,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and over 1,800 reported deaths linked to the infection.

The IPS officer and his wife left for a visit to Italy and Switzerland on March 8 and returned on March 13.

On March 5, the government mandated that travellers who had visited Italy would have to produce a certificate of having been tested negative for Covid-19 before they could be allowed into India. This rule came into force from 10 March and stranded hundreds of Indian students from returning home.

On 10 March, the government also “advised” all travellers with a travel history to 12 countries including Italy to undergo “self-imposed quarantine” for 14 days from the date of their arrival. According to the government order, employers were required to facilitate work from home during this period.

On 11 March, the government ordered that all travellers from seven countries including Italy would have to be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days. This order came into effect for all flights that take off after 13 March.

The IPS officer, who is being quarantined at the Patna hospital, told HT over phone that he wasn’t covered under the quarantine provisions.

“Quarantining my wife and I in a government facility is not required as we are asymptomatic to COVID-19,” he said. Asked if the state health authorities were at fault to have quarantined him, the IPS officer shot back: “I don’t know, you should ask them.”

The state health authorities, however, disagree,

“The case has exposed loopholes in our surveillance system. We will write about it to the competent authorities,” Bihar’s principal secretary, health, Sanjay Kumar, said when contacted by HT.

Kumar, however, refused to elaborate any further.

Patna civil surgeon Dr Raj Kishore Chaudhary said he did not want to comment on why the couple weren’t quarantined in Delhi. “Please keep me out of this controversy,” Dr Chaudhary said.

Officials at the Patna hospital said the couple had been put up at its private cottage that had been converted into an isolation ward for the couple.

“The couple has been quarantined. I don’t know anything beyond this as the matter pertains to the superintendent,” said PMCH principal Dr Vidyapathi Choudhary.

PMCH superintendent Dr Bimal Karak, on the other hand, said: “I was busy with work assigned to me yesterday. I don’t have any update on the IPS officer. The district magistrate, Patna, had also asked me about him today (Sunday), but I told him I will give him an update on Monday. I will find out and tell you after some time.”

Dr Karak did not respond to this reporter’s telephone calls after that.

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